All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has voiced his disappointment that none of New Zealand's five Super Rugby franchises have opened the door to star midfielder Ma'a Nonu.
The saga of where Nonu will play his rugby next year has dragged into its third week of speculation since Super Rugby's regular season finished.
And though Hansen was loathe to get involved he did respond in brief yesterday when asked what he made of the situation.
''It's disappointing that probably the best second five-eighth in world rugby at the moment can't get a home in a New Zealand franchise,'' he said. ''I don't have much more to say than that really.''
Hansen said it was not for him to comment on whether the Hurricanes should take Nonu back next season after cutting him loose in 2011, but his stance suggests he'd prefer they do.
That's because the Wellington-based franchise are the only horse left in the race with the Chiefs, Crusaders and Blues all ruling themselves out and the Highlanders resigned to his departure.
A cone of silence from Nonu, his agent, the Hurricanes and the New Zealand Rugby Union means nobody is really sure what's going on with one of the country's most high profile players.
What Hansen knows for sure is Nonu will be a key part of his Rugby Championship campaign. Nonu has been named in a 30-man training squad for a two-day camp in Auckland this week along with returning captain Richie McCaw.
Nonu was forced off the field with an ankle injury during a club match in Wellington on Saturday, but Hansen did not believe it was serious.
''He's only had a minor tweak to the ankle. I'm sure he'll be fine by the time we get ready to rumble, but I'd say he'd probably not be playing [club rugby] this weekend.''
That's bad news for Oriental Rongotai who have qualified for the Jubilee Cup final, though wing Julian Savea may still be released.
One player who will not be playing club rugby this weekend is McCaw. Hansen confirmed the openside had picked up a ''niggle'' in his neck during a 13 minute cameo in the Crusaders semifinal loss to the Chiefs in Hamilton.
The plan was for McCaw to play 80 minutes during a training match against Wellington and a Canterbury XV on August 9 at the Hutt Recreation Ground.
Hansen was satisfied that would be enough preparation to play Australia in Sydney on August 17. And he was also relaxed about the Chiefs playing Tanerau Latimer ahead of McCaw's June test back up Sam Cane.
''You have a franchise that has two very, very good No 7s and they are using them very smartly. What I thought Lats did in the weekend was great and when Sam came on he was very effective in all he did. It's just how it is...
''It's a long season. He's [Cane] a young player, he's 21, so he's got plenty of time and there will be plenty of miles to put on the clock yet.''
Though Rene Ranger was listed as a midfielder in the All Blacks training squad, ''utility'' was a more accurate tag, Hansen said.
Blues wing Frank Halai and Crusaders utility Tom Taylor missed the training squad because the budget allowed for 30 players rather than the 35 named earlier in the year.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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