Rene Ranger's audacious streak has extended to calling All Blacks coach Steve Hansen and asking him directly what he needs to do to add to his three test caps.
Hansen revealed yesterday that the Blues centre had called him earlier this season - a sign the talented 26-year-old's reported shift to France is not a fait accompli.
And while Ranger didn't get any guarantees, Hansen confirmed he was on the right track after three impressive outings for the Blues.
"It's not about the All Blacks saving Rene Ranger," Hansen said.
"He has to decide he wants to be an All Black, then play so well we can't leave him out. It's about Rene putting together consistent performances.
"It's about the Auckland coaching staff supporting him in doing that to fulfil his potential. If he does that he'll be very hard to leave out, won't he?
"Rene rang me and asked what he has to do to make the All Blacks and he got the same answer I'm telling you. You have to have a high-intensity game and be able to do it consistently week in week out with a very low error rate."
With Richard Kahui's pending departure to Japan and Conrad Smith pondering when to activate a sabbatical clause in his contract, New Zealand's depth at centre has suddenly become a concern.
Ranger has been strongly linked to French club Montpellier but would clearly prefer to stay on and add to a test career that has been stalled since 2010.
And he's not the only Blues back impressing the All Blacks coach early in the year, with Hansen saying the John Kirwan-coached side had set the template for others to follow.
"What they've done is selected big men," he said.
"They have them running reasonably straight and as a result they're giving the backs the chance to have a one-on-one contest.
"The footwork and ability to beat people in the Blues backline is fantastic, so they are winning a lot of those collisions and therefore going forward and we know that's the key principle outside of scoring points."
He also revealed the selectors had an open mind as they pondered how to cover the absence of Richie McCaw in June and made mention of Hurricanes tyro Ardie Savea, who has yet to play Super Rugby because of suspension.
While the Chiefs' Sam Cane is an obvious selection, Hansen suggested no one else had yet leapt out at openside during the opening month of Super Rugby.
"We compare everyone to Richie McCaw. Well, he's the best openside in the world by far and away in my opinion.
"Have we got anyone else ready to be the best in the world right now? Probably not.
"But have we got anyone capable of being the best in the world given the chance to establish themselves? Yes, I think we do.
"Sam Cane is capable of being a great test player. Young Ardie Savea has had limited time with his suspension but has huge potential . . . with Richie out, it's really up for grabs."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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