All Black great named Blues coach
Wellington - The Blues on Tuesday named former All Blacks captain Tana Umaga
as the struggling Super Rugby club's new coach.
He replaces another All Blacks great, John Kirwan, who resigned last week in
the wake of the worst season in the team's history.
The Blues have become the whipping boys of the New Zealand conference and
Umaga, 42, said he was determined to return the three-time champions to their
"I am excited at the opportunity and of course understand there's a big
challenge ahead for us all," he said.
"There's no quick fix to turn things around. It is going to take a lot
of very hard work which will be my focus."
The Blues finished second-last on this year's Super 15 ladder, scraping
together only three wins.
Their last title came in 2003 and they have only made the playoffs twice
Umaga said a priority would be retaining young talent with Kirwan criticised
after youngsters such as Malakai Fekitoa were allowed to move during his
Chairperson Tony Carter said the Blues board, which had been split on the
need to get rid of Kirwan, unanimously backed Umaga's appointment.
"We understand our fans and sponsors, along with everyone on and off
the field in this club are not satisfied with our results especially this
year," he said.
Wellington-born Umaga played 74 Tests, including 21 as captain, leading the
All Blacks in 2005 to a Grand Slam victory and a clean sweep of the British and
As a player, he was known for his hard tackling, particularly an infamous
two-man hit with Keven Mealamu that put Brian O'Driscoll out of the 2005 Lions
series just two minutes into the first Test.
But he also became the first New Zealander to win the Pierre de Coubertin
trophy for sportsmanship after giving first aid to Colin Charvis on the field
when the Welshman was knocked out and choking after being tackled in a 2003
After his international retirement in 2005, Umaga joined French club Toulon,
where he earned his management stripes as a player-coach.
He returned to New Zealand in 2010, joining the Counties Manukau Steelers,
as well as a brief seven-game playing stint with the Chiefs in 2011.
He coached the Steelers to their first ever Ranfurly Shield success in 2013
and said he had watched the Blues' fortunes closely as he was living in