Crusaders' Ellis set to fight for All Blacks jersey

RICHARD KNOWLER
Last updated 13:00 29/01/2013

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Some big-name overseas clubs are sniffing for his signature, but Andy Ellis is poised to stay and fight to regain his All Blacks jersey.

Ellis, unwanted by Steve Hansen since he took over as All Blacks head coach last year, will be a free agent after this year's Super Rugby season. Yet the Crusaders halfback, who has been offered a new contract by the New Zealand Rugby Union, is determined to stay in Christchurch and prove to Hansen he deserves to add to the 26 test caps he earned between 2006 and 2011.

"I'm still sorting through it [the NZRU contract], but I'm still really keen to stay," Ellis said. "I love playing here for Canterbury and the Crusaders. At this stage, yes. I want to wear the black jersey again. That is a big goal."

Although he has ignored Ellis since replacing former coach Graham Henry, Hansen has repeatedly stated he has not shut the door on his test career.

But Ellis knows he will have to produce some golden performances for the Crusaders if he is to force a way into the All Blacks for the three-test series against France in June.

Aaron Smith, Piri Weepu and Tawera Kerr-Barlow were preferred for last year's northern tour and T J Perenara showed glimpses of brilliance for the Hurricanes before breaking his ankle.

Weepu's decision to watch his calories over the off-season - he has reportedly returned to the Blues about 10kg lighter than a year ago - doesn't make the challenge any easier for Ellis.

Although Ellis had not instructed his agents to aggressively chase any offshore deals, that has not stopped efforts to lure him out of the country.

"I have never really put any feelers out there, but there has been some interest . . . and some pretty awesome clubs, too.

"I am only 28. I still want to be playing into my mid-30s and seven or so years is a long time to spend away from home. And the other thing is I reckon I will be playing my best rugby for the next three years. I don't want to be doing that overseas, I want to be doing that here in New Zealand." Married, with a pre-school daughter, Ellis believes his family would enjoy experiencing a different culture and rejected a suggestion that was what was keeping him here.

Instead he feels a loyalty to the Crusaders and Canterbury, and himself, to see if he can win his third Super Rugby title and earn some more test caps. Fairfax NZ

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