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Rene Ranger set for MLR

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Former All Black Rene Ranger set for the United States as Major League Rugby's newest marquee signing

Former All Blacks utility back Rene Ranger is heading to the United States to prolong his rugby career after signing with Major League Rugby side, the Colorado Raptors.

The 33-year-old played six tests for New Zealand between 2010 and 2013, and made a name for himself as an explosive ball runner during his two stints with the Blues and Northland.

Ranger has also spent time with North Harbour, Montpellier and La Rochelle, and was signed on with the Sunwolves for the 2019 Super Rugby campaign, but an ACL injury ruled him out of action for the majority of the season.

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His wealth of experience in New Zealand, France and Japan is bound to make him a valuable member of the Raptors, formerly known as the Glendale Raptors, who have also signed former Wallabies speedster Digby Ioane and ex-Manu Samoa prop Zak Taulafo for next year.

Ranger becomes the third All Black to move to MLR ahead of the 2020 season, with one-test wing Frank Halai joining the Austin Herd from French club Pau, while 103-test double World Cup-winner Ma’a Nonu has moved to the San Diego Legion from the Blues.

The Utah Warriors announced earlier this year that 29-test All Blacks loose forward Adam Thomson had signed with the club on a two-year deal, but visa issues kept him from playing at all in his first season.

Instead, the 37-year-old turned out for Otago in the Mitre 10 Cup, but it is unknown whether he will take to the field in the United States in 2020 after missing out on a Super Rugby contract.

New Zealand isn’t the only nation whose ex-international stars are being targeted by the new North American club competition, which inaugurated in 2018.

The Legion have recruited three-test Wales lock Dominic Day from Saracens to accompany Nonu’s arrival in San Diego, while perhaps the biggest signing of the off-season came from Rugby United New York, who signed ex-France captain Mathieu Bastareaud.

The 31-year-old midfielder, who won 54 caps for Les Bleus between 2009 and 2019, will join 34-test former England fullback Ben Foden, who has already spent a season at MCU Park in Brooklyn.

Ranger’s addition to the league adds to the growing international flavour of the competition, and it’s something the Raptors’ New Zealand-born coach Peter Borlase is excited about.

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“My manager has told me to go to Japan so that I can aim to play for Fiji in the next Rugby World Cup,”

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“We’re all really excited to have Rene join our environment for the coming season,” he said.

“With Rene playing at the highest level both internationally as well as in southern and northern hemisphere competitions his knowledge and leadership will be well received in our squad, especially developing some of the young blood in our back line.

“Rene is known for his direct physical style of play, but also his distribution skills and will add to our players play. He is a top man with humility, a hard work ethic and team-first attitude.”

Ranger will link up with the Raptors next month in preparation for the new season, which begins in February and will feature three new teams, the New England Free Jacks, Old Glory DC and Rugby ATL.

The MLR final is scheduled to be held in June.

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Former All Black Rene Ranger set for the United States as Major League Rugby's newest marquee signing