Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Ranger I won't change my style

Rene Ranger Photo / Greg Bowker.
Rene Ranger Photo / Greg Bowker.

Rene Ranger is back for the Blues after serving his two-match suspension for a dangerous tackle and says he won't be changing his aggressive style.

Ranger's tackle on opposite wing Bjorn Basson in the dying seconds of the Blues' sole victory of the season - the round three 29-23 win over the Bulls in Pretoria - was described as late and dangerous by Sanzar judicial officer Mike Heron and the ban meant Ranger missed the subsequent defeats to the Stormers and Hurricanes.

Ranger was at full pace and full stretch as he attempted to tackle Basson as the Bulls player dived for the corner. The impact left Basson prone and sparked a nasty incident when a Bulls supporter threw a bottle which hit Blues' captain Keven Mealamu in the back of the head after full time.

Now Ranger is back and in the same left wing position after playing his earlier matches at centre. And something else that hasn't changed for the 25-year-old 101kg ball of muscle is that competitive mindset.

When asked whether he would do anything differently if faced with the same situation against the Rebels in Melbourne tomorrow (Thurs), Ranger replied: "No.

You don't want to let them score so I would probably try to get there earlier I guess and try to make the tackle but, no, I wouldn't do anything differently, really."

His response probably wouldn't cause coach Pat Lam too much alarm. The three-test All Black would be wise to use his arms more in the next tackle he makes but Ranger's is the sort of attitude the Blues need to lift them from their slumber.

One win from five matches is a poor return considering the talent they possess - even given the long-term injuries to Jerome Kaino, Isaia Toeava and Anthony Boric.

While Ranger has also failed to fire to his full potential, he has shown glimpses of the destructive running game which could finally ignite the Blues' season.

His broken-field running had the Crusaders scrambling in the Blues' one-point loss at Eden Park in the season opener and more of the same will cause the porous Rebels' defence serious problems at AAMI Park.

It could help, too, that Gareth Anscombe is back at first-five - his third start after wearing the No 10 jersey against the Bulls and Stormers. Anscombe was outstanding in scoring all of the Blues' 29 points in Pretoria and, although he understandably struggled to reach the same heights in Cape Town, his poise and talent could be the key in unlocking players like Ranger, Ma'a Nonu and Rudi Wulf.

Ranger said his own game was a work in progress and it seems he has received the message to be a bit busier and provide options for Anscombe and Co.

"It's a matter of getting my handling errors down and making some better decisions," he said. "I have to get around the paddock a bit more so I can get my hands on the ball more."

The Rebels also have game breakers in first-five James O'Connor and fullback Kurtley Beale, both key Wallabies.

"They are world-class players," Ranger said. "Kurtley Beale is great with the ball in hand and has good feet; O'Connor, he's playing well, he likes to direct his forwards around. It's going to be a good challenge."

Anscombe this week has talked about the need for the Blues to start scoring tries to get the fun back at a franchise going through some tough times. Ranger will be lining up to provide his own unique impact in that area.

Nothing less than a win and at least four competition points will do for Lam and the Blues.

- APNZ

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