The speculation is over - Rene Ranger is definitely going to France to honour his contract with Montpellier.
While the news might be bittersweet, given that he has finally broken back into the All Blacks starting XV, Ranger knows he can only look forward.
"It's one of those decisions I was looking at earlier in the year," he said.
"I didn't actually think I would be in this team. They had Richard Kahui, Tamati [Ellison], Cory Jane. I thought I was still behind them.
"For me to get here now, I'm pretty happy and I know I'm finally going, I signed the contract two weeks ago and I'm excited."
Although there was some talk of the 26-year-old being bought out of his estimated $600,000 a year contract with the French club, its asking price of $300,000 was simply too much.
With that put to bed, Ranger can now look forward to starting tomorrow night's test in New Plymouth with nothing left to worry about.
His biggest issue is whether he can replicate his blockbusting cameos from the first two tests in a starting role.
"I'm used to starting at the Blues, so hopefully I can take those performances off the bench into starting mode."
After listening to All Blacks coach Steve Hansen praise the work of Julian Savea in the series, Ranger knows he will need to make an impression if he is to fulfil his ambition and remain in the squad when the Rugby Championship kicks off.
Contracted with the New Zealand Rugby Union until the end of the NPC, Ranger hopes to turn out for Northland before he jets away, including a Ranfurly Shield challenge against Waikato.
Before then he wants to find a balance between his punishing runs and defence, as well as doing some core roles of a wing, including a good kick-chase game.
Ranger feels the All Blacks environment, for him, has changed for the better since he was last involved in 2010, and while he is obviously disappointed with how the next stage of his career panned out, he says he is not going to let his team-mates down tomorrow night at Yarrow Stadium.
He will not be using "regret" in any conversations about his future, either.
"I've still made the team here, so it just goes to show I can still make the All Blacks."
Ranger's attitude mirrored that of Hansen, who won't be spending too much time on "what ifs" when it comes to one of his most potent attackers.
"It's unfortunate Rene is going to go because he's had a pretty good season at 13," Hansen said.
- Taranaki Daily News
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