New Zealand Rugby
Family first for Rene Ranger
August 8, 2013
Rene Ranger impressed off the bench against France © Getty Images

Rene Ranger said his decision to captain Northland in the ITM Cup rather than accept a spot in the All Blacks squad for The Rugby Championship was one of the hardest he's ever had to make.

The former Blues centre made himself unavailable for selection in Steve Hansen's 28-man squad to play the quadrangular tournament against Australia, South Africa and Argentina in order to spend more time at home with his baby and partner in Whangarei before leaving to take up a lucrative deal with French Top 14 club Montpellier in November.

Ranger has revealed that All Blacks management attempted to devise a "structure" that would allow him to attend to his young family and fulfill team requirements, but he decided that a clean break was the best option.

"At the end of the day it was a bit too difficult so [Hansen] understands my decision and I think he supports me," Ranger said. "Shag [Hansen] told me [he would call me] if there was an emergency or if there were any injury concerns. I told him my phone would be on."

The All Blacks are at risk with just two specialist midfielders - Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith - in the squad, but they can call upon Ben Smith and fly-half Dan Carter to play in the centres. Only a worst-case scenario will see Ranger called in, meaning he has likely played his last game of a fleeting career in the black jersey.

Ranger, 26, described his decision as "extremely difficult", and he signalled his desire to return to New Zealand rugby in the future. But he will be 30 when he finishes his three-year deal in France and probably won't be considered for international selection if he decides to return.

"It's probably one of the hardest decisions I've ever made. Probably one of the hardest after signing a contract to go overseas," Ranger said. "But in my opinion family comes first and rugby is second."

Ranger impressed for the All Blacks off the bench in June's three-Test series against France, and New Zealand coach Steve Hansen had indicated the versatile Blues midfield back was in contention a spot in the coming Bledisloe Cup and Rugby Championship Tests. "We've always said we'd pick the best players available and at this point [Ranger] is still available," Hansen said after naming his the training squad.

Ranger will lead inexperienced Northland in the ITM Cup, providing star power alongside Blues legend Rupeni Caucaunibuca. Northland open their campaign when they challenge Waikato for the Ranfurly Shield on August 17. "I'd like to leave on a high note," Ranger said. "First game is a Ranfurly Shield match; to get that would be awesome."

Northland: Robbie Abel, Derek Carpenter, Rupeni Caucaunibuca, Justin Davies, Warren Dunn, Latiume Fosita, Roy Griffin, Dan Hawkins, Willgriff John, Mateo Malupo, Whiria Meltzer, David Morgan, Matt Moulds, Tom Murday, Bronson Murray, Jake Paringatai, Owen Pihema, Dan Pryor, Jack Ram, Rene Ranger (captain), Ben Seymour, Mac Sykes, Viliami Tahitu'a, Tane Takulua, Jone Tori, Scott Vessey, Will Whetton, Bryce Williams, Matt Wright, Ross Wright.

© Sportal

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