Rene Ranger in All Blacks squad
July 29, 2013
Rene Ranger produced powerful performances against France in June © Getty Images
New Zealand All Blacks Training Group
Rene Ranger continues to find favour with New Zealand All Blacks selectors as they ponder their options for The Rugby Championship.
The selectors named a wider training group without Super Rugby finalist Chiefs players on Monday for a two-day camp on the North Shore in Auckland, including the Blues star despite his likely absence from the end of the season given his expected departure for French Top 14 club Montpellier.
The selectors also maintained faith in Ma'a Nonu, another blockbusting midfielder named in the squad despite an uncertain future as he is out of favour with all five New Zealand Super Rugby franchises.
"We've always said we'd pick the best players available and at this point [Ranger] is still available," head coach Steve Hansen said of the training squad.
Selectors made another surprise choice in naming Brad Shields, the loose forward one of three uncapped players in the squad alongside Blues second five-eighth Francis Saili and Hurricanes team-mate TJ Perenara. Hansen selected Saili in the squad for the home series against France in June, but the Aucklander didn't play in any of the three Tests.
Richie McCaw was selected, as expected, despite having played just one club rugby match and making two short cameos off the Crusaders bench in the Super Rugby play-offs. He is expected to be named captain on Sunday, when Hansen finalises his All Blacks squad for The Rugby Championship.
McCaw reportedly suffered a sore neck during his brief appearance off the bench for the Crusaders in their Super semi-final loss to the Chiefs, but Hansen said: "He's in pretty good shape. By the time it gets to August 17, he'll have had two more games so at this point he's coming along nicely."
© ESPN Australia / New Zealand with Sportal
The latest Week in Pictures takes in a fiery East Midlands derby and all the action from the Aviva Premiership and Top 14
The rolling maul is becoming an increasingly potent attacking weapon. Conor O'Shea looks at the difficulties of stopping it
The news of James Horwill, Adam Ashley-Cooper and Dan Carter's respective transfers will open the floodgates, writes Tom Hamilton