Ryan Crotty may not have been included in the All Blacks' training squad, but he is still in the mind of coach Steve Hansen.
The Crusaders man has been a surprise package after taking over the number 13 jersey from Robbie Fruean and has performed to rave reviews of late. However, this was not enough to see him earn a spot at Hansen's training camp, with the France-bound Rene Ranger getting the nod ahead of him.
Hansen has defended the decision to select Ranger even though his future remains unclear as he has committed to playing for Montpellier in the Top 14 after the ITM Cup.
"We've always said we'll pick the best players that are available and at this point he is available, so we'll be looking to use him if that continues to be the case,'' Hansen told Radio Sport of Ranger.
Other centres named in the squad are Ma'a Nonu, Francis Saili and Conrad Smith, with Ben Smith also an option.
Hansen admits that Crotty's name came into the reckoning when the squad was being selected but that the 24-year-old didn't quite make the grade at present.
"He's played very very well and he's certainly someone we've talked about so he's done all he can at this point," said Hansen.