Departing Richard Kahui to be back in black

LIAM NAPIER
Last updated 05:01 07/04/2013
Richard Kahui
MARK TAYLOR/Fairfax NZ
NEXT CHALLENGE: Richard Kahui had a few days off following his wedding but is now preparing to face the Queensland Reds.

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Expect Richard Kahui to be selected for the All Blacks in June.

Kahui's decision to move to Japan for the next two years caused major angst in New Zealand rugby circles, as he did not consult All Blacks management or the governing body before signing a lucrative deal.

Many suspected his desire to seek financial security would end his All Blacks career.

But the Sunday Star-Times understands Kahui is set to benefit from Steve Hansen's mantra of picking the best available players - a precedent the All Blacks coach followed last year when Sonny Bill Williams (league) and Adam Thomson (Japan) had also committed elsewhere.

That same premise should see Kahui add to his 17 tests this year. It also leaves the door ajar for others likes Rene Ranger (France) and Anthony Boric (Japan), who are also heading offshore.

While frustrated by the process which led to 27-year-old Kahui's pending departure, Hansen is not about to overlook those qualities.

"You don't shoot someone just because they made a mistake," Hansen told the Star-Times.

"He knows we are frustrated and if he had his time again he'd do it differently.

"History has proven over a number of years in the All Blacks that players have been selected in different circumstances."

Possibly more intriguing is Hansen's firm views on Kahui's best position for the All Blacks.

The Chiefs midfielder is set to go head-to-head with in-form finishers Julian Savea and Hosea Gear, two traditional left wingers, for a starting spot in the three-test series against France.

It is, of course, a position he filled superbly in tandem with Cory Jane during the knockout stages of the 2011 World Cup.

"Personally I think his best position internationally is on the wing," Hansen revealed. "His skills set is such that he's great under the high ball. He's a big ball carrier and he gets the opportunity on the wing to roam.

"He's a great counter attacker and he's got a good boot. As a back-three player he's ideal.

"That doesn't rule him out from being a midfielder, either, because he's high quality there too."

Meanwhile, the Star-Times understands Hansen made a presentation to the NZRU board last week about his successful two-year term in charge. NZRU chief executive Steve Tew has publicly indicated he is pleased with Hansen's leadership and it would make sense to give him an extension to the 2015 World Cup. Such an announcement is imminent.

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