Ranger quits la Rochelle for Northland return

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La Rochelle (France) (AFP)

Ex-All Blacks back Rene Ranger is to return to New Zealand next season with his first professional club, Northland.

"We are excited to announce that Rene Ranger is back for the 2018 Northland Mitre10Cup season," Northland announced.

Ranger, 31, touched down in La Rochelle mid-season but never really settled, playing just seven matches, three in the European Champions Cup and four in the Top 14.

It is a second homecoming for the six-time capped All Black, who previously returned after two seasons with La Rochelle's Top 14 rivals Montpellier, for whom he turned out 38 times.

Ranger will be leaving a La Rochelle team still looking for a coach after the departure of Patrice Collazo following a disappointing season that saw the club finish seventh in the league, out of the top-six play-off spots.

Ulster's Kiwi coach Jono Gibbes, previously assistant coach at Leinster and Clermont, is the name most often cited as Collazo's likely replacement.