Ranger plays down rumours of France move
Rene Ranger has attempted to downplay speculation he will leave New Zealand rugby to play in the south of France.
Rumours are growing stronger that the blockbusting Blues' midfielder has joined Top 14 French club Montpellier.
While Ranger admitted his options were open, he claimed a lucrative contract had not been signed and he was committed to New Zealand rugby this year.
"There's rumours but nothing is official yet," Ranger said. "I haven't signed anything yet. A lot of clubs are on the ropes overseas so my options are open. At the moment I'm here with the Blues, signed with the NZRU for a year and still playing for Northland."
With Chiefs centre Richard Kahui announcing his shock move to Japanese club Toshiba, Highlanders utility Tamati Ellison injured and Hurricanes captain Conrad Smith set to take a sabbatical at the end of this season, the All Blacks midfield stocks are suddenly depleted.
Ranger is set to push his claims for the centre role against Crusaders opposite Robbie Fruean at Eden Park on Friday, but a possible move overseas would hurt his chances of a recall to the national team.
Ranger played three tests in 2010.
Blues coach John Kirwan has, meanwhile, rewarded his team's opening round upset over the Hurricanes by naming an unchanged outfit.
Ahead of his coaching debut on Eden Park, where he played as an 18-year-old, Kirwan noted All Blacks fullback Israel Dagg will start on the left wing and expected the visitors to adopt a more enterprising approach to recent campaigns.
"There's some interesting stuff there with Israel on the wing," Kirwan said.
"I think they've got injury issues. We know what Tom [Taylor] is capable of playing both those positions. The Crusaders always have their issues but they always turn up with a really solid looking rugby team. They've got to be the favourites.
"If you're not ready for the Crusaders you might as well give up the game.
"I think they're trying to change the game. We've seen some different stuff from them. We've got to be ready for it. We've studied what we think they'll be bringing to the table, which we think will be a bit more expansive. We're also ready for them to play as they normally play."
Blues: Charles Piutau, Frank Halai, Rene Ranger, Francis Saili, George Moala, Chris Noakes, Piri Weepu, Peter Saili, Luke Braid, Steven Luatua, Ali Williams (c), Culum Retallick, Charlie Faumuina, James Parsons, Tom McCartney. Reserves: Brendon O'Connor, Liaki Moli, Angus Ta'avao, Quentin MacDonald.