The All Blacks' midfield crisis has deepened with Highlander Tamati Ellison set to return to the Japanese club scene.
Ellison will rejoin the Japanese club side Ricoh at the end of the current Super Rugby season.
Persuaded back to New Zealand by Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph, Ellison did enough to earn a recall to the All Blacks squad last year though he had limited opportunities.
He has also endured a wretched run with injuries and has only just returned to action with the Highlanders, making a handy contribution in last week's maiden win of the season over the Sharks.
Ellison would be available for the June internationals against Ireland but is no longer a long-term option.
Clearly at 30, Ellison has decided to cash in on another crack at the lucrative Japanese scene.
He has played just four tests in a stuttering international career that started in 2009. Ironically, his stocks have never been higher than they are right now, with everything that is swirling round him in his positions of centre or second-five.
With Sonny Bill Williams long departed, Ma' Nonu injured and sorely out of form, Richard Kahui's future clouded by shoulder surgery and a likewise move to Japan, Rene Ranger mulling over a move to France, and senior centre Conrad Smith battling a head injury and also pondering the need for a break, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has plenty on his plate to fill the midfield.
- © Fairfax NZ News
Is Richie McCaw now the greatest All Black of all time?