Flamboyant All Black Rene Ranger will leave New Zealand for French club Montpellier later this year.
Ranger, 26, ended speculation on Thursday about his playing future by confirming he had signed with Montpellier in December.
He will begin a two-year contract in September at the completion of the Rugby Championship involving New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and Argentina.
The powerful outside back’s blistering form for Super Rugby side the Blues lifted him back into the All Blacks after playing three Tests in 2010.
His management investigated backing out of the French contract but Montpellier demanded a release fee, which Ranger won’t disclose but says is well beyond his means.
The signing confirmation came minutes after he was named to start on the All Blacks left wing against France in the third Test at New Plymouth on Saturday.
He came off the bench in the first two Tests and says the promotion to start gives him a new focus now that his long-term future is determined.
“Everyone’s been asking if I’m staying or if I’m leaving. It’s good to get it off my shoulders, but now I’ve got a starting position on my shoulders,” he said.
Ranger replaces Julian Savea, who Hansen says played well in last week’s 30-0 second Test win in Christchurch but is in need of a rest.
Hansen wants Ranger to replicate his destructive form off the reserve bench from the opening whistle.
The burly back is also a chance to switch to centre late in the game.