Roll out a "please come home" mat for Rene Ranger - New Zealand rugby needs explosive crowd-pleasers like the Northland wild man.

But Ranger is pushing the proverbial up hill if his main motivation for seeking a release from Montpellier is to make the All Blacks' World Cup squad.

Good on him for trying, and yahoo if he makes it, but there ain't much room at the inn anymore unless injuries intervene, which is always a possibility.

Timing can be everything and Ranger got it wrong in the first place, making the decision to head to France when he was on the verge of truly impressing the All Blacks selectors.


Then he joined that select little group who have turned the All Blacks down - Ranger had genuine personal reasons as I understand it - when Steve Hansen was still prepared to pick the overseas-bound outside back.

The problem with Ranger is he will always be a work in progress to some degree.

The problem for Ranger is that Ben Smith, Charles Piutau and Malakai Fekitoa have proven to be major talents with top test class, or close enough to it.

The golden one, SBW, is coming back.

Still, it would be a lot of fun watching Ranger try. There is no outside back in world rugby better at turning defensive ruck ball into an attacking raid, and on his day he lifts those around him.

Ranger might consider trying to slot his explosive game into a team like the Crusaders, where he would be exposed to the highest preparation standards, rather than rolling the dice with the Blues, who have a crazy personality.

Then again, his predicted attempt to get out of his French contract might reveal a man who prefers to be close to home. After all, he did choose Northland over the All Blacks last year.

So, it could be game on again with one of the most exciting footballers we've seen in this country. Ranger's return would also give the World Cup selection debates added zing.


As with Rupeni Caucaunibuca, an adopted Northlander, Ranger's career will likely have a giant asterix next to it, denoting amazing potential unfulfilled. But there is just that outside chance of a different ending.

Luke suspension justified

Issac Luke got what he deserved, being suspended out of Sunday's NRL grand final. Yes, it's a heavy price, but it's a price that must be paid for the ridiculous tackle he made on Sonny Bill Williams.

Luke is a fantastic footballer, and a contender for the most underrated sports person in New Zealand. But South Sydney should be furious with the little man.

From the moment he made the lifting tackle on SBW, Luke's grand final chances were gone and the judiciary panel has done a great job.

The tackle was a shocker, and it could have had terrible consequences, as a similar one did for Newcastle's Alex McKinnon this year. There was a typically ludicrous defence put up by Luke's lawyer, one not worth repeating here. The players need to get the reality into their heads - these aren't instinctive tackles, but ones they can easily avoid making. Some of the macho reactions, from participants and spectators, need to go as well.

The fact is this. Luke put a hand between SBW's legs, curled around the knee area, twirled the leg skyward, sending SBW head first towards the ground. Illegal, illegal, illegal ... and dangerous. End of story.

SBW's claim that it was a "nothing" tackle, that it would be a travesty if it meant Luke was go miss the grand final, was about as bad as the tackle. That he wasn't badly injured is irrelevant.

The NRL should consider slapping a ban on players and coaches commenting on each judicial case until it has been decided.

Luke has also been rubbed out of the Kiwis' opening Four Nations test against Australia, which is a major blow. As to whether the ban should apply to test matches, that's another story.

His absence is the only thing I can see preventing South Sydney from storming to the title over the Bulldogs. With Luke on board, Souths would have been unbeatable.