Tuesday, March 03, 2015
The wrecking ball Rene Ranger is all set to return to New Zealand rugby later this year after he was granted an early release from his contract at Montpellier. He has played in France for two seasons, but wants to return home to spend more time with his family.
The explosive Ranger will return to the Blues and Super Rugby in 2016, but will be available for North Harbour in the ITM Cup this year. The dynamic 28-year-old back has scored 25 tries in 65 Super Rugby appearances for the Blues. He has also been capped six times by the All Blacks, an indication of the kind of talent they've had in the backs in recent years.
For Montpellier he's scored six tries in 15 Top 14 matches, but feels it's not time to return to New Zealand, with family being the primary reason for the early release request.
"Family comes first and that is the big motivator to return. I want to be able to help my Mum more," Ranger said, and added that chosing the Blues as a destination was an easy decision to make.
"I started my Super career with them and they have always been close to me. JK (Blues coach Sir John Kirwan) has always backed me and motivated me to be my best," he said.
He was excited about the prospect of returning to a team he believed was on the improve.
"They are a quality side, but execution is letting them down so far. Hopefully I can play a positive role because backs get excited with the sort of front-foot ball the Blues are getting.
"I will come home a better rugby player. I am mentally stronger and I’ve learned a lot that I can bring back into the Blues environment."
Kirwan said Ranger's return would bolster the team with star-quality on the field and a fan-favourite off it. "Rene made his mark on the game in this country as a remarkable attacking player, always able to break tackles, often when there was nothing on.
"His experience in Europe will have helped further round his skills and add to his experience. With the likes of Charles Piutau, it will give us a potent attacking unit," Kirwan said.
North Harbour gains Ranger
Ranger will return to New Zealand after his commitments in Europe, and will join North Harbour for the ITM Cup. While Ranger said he remained a Northlander at heart, the key to his decision was the desire for his family to be based in one place.
"Last time I travelled from Northland and lived on my own. Our family wants to be together in one place and from that point, I have decided to play for North Harbour.
"They are a young team trying to build and that is something new and challenging for me."
Ranger will return midyear to ready himself for the ITM Cup with North Harbour.
Ranger has been a favourite here on RD for some time now. View some of his finer moments in the Related Posts below this post, featuring some huge hits, charges, naughty moments and a funny celebration. Directly below, view a video featuring some of his highlights while with Montpellier.
Ireland's Johnny Sexton put in another inspired performance this past weekend, showing yet again why he's considered one of the top number tens on the planet. This mini-documentary tracks his rise from schoolboy prodigy to international star.
Three Ireland's 'All it Takes is Everything' campaign features contributions from a number of influential figures, including Ronan O'Gara, school coach Richie Hughes, and Sexton's godfather Billy Keane, the son of Irish playwright John B. Keane.
The three-minute film gives us great insight into the Racing Metro and Leinster stars rise from St. Mary's College, with words from those who know him best, highlighting his commitment, dedication and work ethic, all of which are required to get to the very top of international rugby.
"Johnny is an exceptional out half. He prepares really well, he doesnt leave anything to chance on a Saturday. I also think there’s more in the tank, I think we'll see him in the next two to three years hit a new level," said O'Gara, himself capped 128 times by Ireland.
Ireland skipper Paul O'Connell spoke about how integral Sexton is to the team on matchday.
"Johnny is the most ridiculous competitor you have ever seen, with an unbelievable work ethic. I know my job pretty well on the field, but Johnny knows where the other 14 players on the pitch should be at any one time. He's the standard bearer in everything for us at the moment."
Sexton is an official ambassador for Three, and said that he's barely had time to look back at his career to date, so this mini-documentary has given him the perfect opportunity to do it.
"Some of the most important people in my life, and on this journey, appear in the film and it’s nice for them to also be recognised for their contribution," said the 29-year-old flyhalf.
The #AllitTakes campaign is part of Three’s Irish team sponsorship activity. The third, and final instalment of the series, featuring O’Connell will be released later in the championship.
Sunday, March 01, 2015
Robbie Henshaw got up high to score a fantastic try as Ireland beat England 19-9 in Dublin earlier today. The win puts the defending champions in with a great chance of retaining their title, but they still need to face a rejuvenated Wales outfit in Cardiff in a fortnight.
Following another victory that keeps Ireland on track for another title, skipper Paul O'Connell spoke about the feeling in the camp and the focus of the group.
"I think we’re doing a lot of things really well. The way we're preparing is a lot different from what we've done in the past in my time here," POC said.
"I just think the game-by-game focus suits Irish teams and Irish people. I'm sure the coaches look at the bigger picture, but for us, there will be a fairly brutal review of this game, and we'll be put under pressure then to prepare certain things for Wales, and that will be the sole focus of the players.
He also hinted at retirement, saying it might have been his last Six Nations match against England, but he wouldn't commit to that, as he claims he genuinely hasn't made a decision yet.
"I'm undecided. I'll probably make the decision soon enough, I really want to play to the World Cup and be in the best shape I can there and see after that. I'm really enjoying playing at the moment in the set-up we have in Ireland, but I’m conscious we have a lot of good second-rows coming through as well."
Coach Joe Schmidt has given an injury update, after stars Johnny Sexton and Sean O'Brien were forced to leave the field. "Johnny just felt a twinge in his hamstring when he was kicking that conversion from the corner," Schmidt said.
"Again, we haven’t had that assessed yet so I can’t really comment as to the severity or non-severity of that. With Sean, we’re not too sure how it happened.
"We had a look at the tape and maybe it was a head-to-head clash, but he’s going to through the HIA [Head Injury Assessment] protocols and he’ll work his way through those in the next six days.
"He's certainly asymptomatic at the moment, he’s fine, just a little bit grumpy and disappointed he didn’t see out the match," Schmidt added.
A quick look at an interesting number of stats that World Rugby have put together, featuring the top tacklers from the Six Nations after the first two rounds. Don't be misled by the title - this is not about who hits the hardest, but in fact who completes the most successful tackles.
With Ireland hosting England this afternoon, the likes of Chris Robshaw and Robbie Henshaw will be looking to add to their already impressive totals of 45 and 31 respectively.
Wales are still in the running for a Six Nations title as they kept their hopes alive with a 20-13 victory over France in Paris on Saturday. Leigh Halfpenny kicked 15 points as Dan Biggar scored their only try, while France scored through Brice Dulin.
The win in Paris was Wales' fourth consecutive victory over France, giving them hope that they can end the tournament on a high and claim another title, despite losing to England in their first outing.
Coach Warren Gatland has praised his team's defence, particularly in the pack up front.
"We have a good record against France I thought the forwards were sensational. We scrummaged well, the line-out was good and I thought we deserved to win," he said.
Gatland also said that the French-based Welsh players made a big difference on the day.
"I think the advantage was that our French-based players were able to give an insight into a number of the French players, having been team-mates or played against certain players," he explained.
"I think for the Welsh players based over here in France it was probably as much them wanting to prove their worth and value and the reason why they are over here. In terms of that self-motivation, it was wanting to perform.
"I thought some of Jamie Roberts's carrying was excellent, the goal-kicking of Leigh Halfpenny was potentially the difference, and Luke Charteris was outstanding defensively in line-outs and rucks. I thought there was an edge about those players, and they did a good job for us.
"It is a massive game for us at home against Ireland in a couple of weeks. Ireland are clinical at what they do - they don't make a lot of mistakes," he added.
French coach Philippe Saint-Andre said that his team need to get the basics of rugby right.
"You cannot spend the whole match defending, and it is very difficult to win with 50 per cent goal-kicking. We really need to work on the basic skills.
"Teams like Wales and Ireland know exactly how to play these type of games. We made some really sloppy mistakes, and with a goal-kicker like Leigh Halfpenny it meant it made it very difficult for ourselves."
Italy's captain Sergio Parisse has praised his team's courage for hanging in and battling it out to a 22-19 away victory over Scotland on Saturday. It was their first win in the Six Nations since 2013, and just their second ever win away from home since joining.
A year ago Scotland came out on top with a last-gasp Duncan Weir drop goal in Rome, so Parisse, who played a big part in the driving maul that led to the winning penalty try, admitted that revenge was sweet this time around.
"It is special. It is fantastic for the team. We lost last time in Rome with a last-minute drop goal so we are really happy with the result and this victory will give some confidence for the team going into the next match in Rome," the skipper said.
"It was a great victory. We had a lot of young guys, especially in the backs and two uncapped boys in the group. We have done a lot of hard work in the week so I am really happy with the result."
Fullback Like McLean was named Man of the Match, but paid tribute to the forwards for their effort.
"It has been a long couple of years with Italy. We have had a couple of tough losses against Scotland in the last two years so it is good to get the other side of the result," McLean said.
"Our forwards really set the platform today, we scored a try off a really good maul in the first half and full credit to them they came out and really stood up for us. A win is tough enough but to win away it is a good thing and we will look to the next two games at home and try and push on from there."
Scotland coach Vern Cotter said that his side should be winning the tight matches.
"We've got two more games and there are things that we need to do to perhaps give us more composure and enable us to finish and close out games. I still think there's a lot of growth, things have gone forward," the New Zealander said.
"We've just got to address a couple of simple things that will have us change and control outcomes better and those are things we'll have a look at internally."
Quick highlights wrap below, with more clips and extended highlights to follow soon. Let us know your thoughts on the match in the comments below.
Friday, February 27, 2015
Late last year Rugby Union Team Manager 2015 was released, and we gave away a few copies here on RD. Now, in the height of the Six Nations, we're giving away another 6 copies, and letting you know a bit more about this highly comprehensive rugby union management game, which has since been released in a French language version.
The feedback has been great so far, as fans have longed for a Rugby Union manager game forever. This Alternative Software release fills that gap, so now you, the rugby guru, can manage your own team as your pick of players take on all before them.
Rugby Union Team Manager 2015 delivers the most comprehensive rugby simulation ever produced, with Key leagues from the Aviva Premiership, the Guinness PRO12 (including professional sides from Scotland, Wales, Ireland and Italy), and also both the French TOP14 and PROD2, all officially licensed.
The game also includes teams from the Southern Hemisphere, in fact there are over 14,500 players and over 320 playable teams featured in the game. Plus you can even create your very own team with your own created players. And now, the game is available to play in both English and French.
It's available via all good video game retailers, and as a digital download via Steam.
T&C's: The closing date for entries is midnight, Sunday 15th March 2015. Winners will be contacted via email. Entering above will subscribe you to the Rugbydump Insider. If you don't like hearing from us, you can unsubscribe at any time.