27 Feb

Luke McAlister to return to NZ
by Tracey Nelson
27 Feb 2009

In a deal finalised in the last 24 hours, former All Black Luke McAlister is leaving the UK to return to New Zealand and has re-signed with the New Zealand Rugby Union through until 2012.

McAlister, who has played at both 1st 5 and 2nd 5 for the All Blacks, left New Zealand at the end of the 2007 season to take up a contract with English club Sale. He will return to New Zealand at the end of the English Premiership season this May.

While he feels he has developed both on and off the field while playing rugby in England, his main reason for heading back to New Zealand is to be closer to his family. McAlister has a young daughter who lives in Auckland. He is currently recovering from knee surgery but hopes to end his time in English rugby on a high with his Sale team attempting to end in the top four of the Premiership.

The NZRU will be delighted to add McAlister to their list of signings that this week has included Brendon Leonard, Stephen Brett and Andy Ellis. However, the happiest of all will be the All Black coaches who no doubt will have been deeply concerned by the lack of depth and experience in the New Zealand 1st 5 ranks following Dan Carter’s ruptured archilles tendon that will keep him out of international rugby until at least the end of this year.

While McAlister has signed with the NZRU, he is yet to decide on his provincial or Rebel Sport Super 14 future and will discuss that on his return to New Zealand. It now remains to be seen whether the rules stating that to be eligible for All Black selection a player must participate in the Super 14 will be waived to fast track McAlister back into an All Black side desperate for an experienced, international 1st 5.

Brief stats:
McAlister made his All Blacks debut in 2005 in the third Test against the touring British & Irish Lions and went on to play 22 Tests, scoring 120 points, before heading to Europe at the end of 2007.

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