Blues chief offers support for under-fire Umaga
Wellington - Blues chief executive Michael Redman expressed
support for embattled coach Tana Umaga on Tuesday, saying he wanted the All
Black legend to stay with the struggling club.
Umaga's team are again rooted to the bottom of the New
Zealand Super Rugby conference after losing six of their eight matches this
The most recent defeat was a 34-16 mauling from the
Highlanders on Friday, taking their winless streak against New Zealand
opposition to 15.
The optimism surrounding Umaga's appointment in June 2015,
when he talked of a return to the glory days that brought the Blues three
titles, has dissipated as the losses mount.
Redman said he retained faith in Umaga, who is in the final
year of his contract.
"There's plenty of support for Tana within New Zealand
rugby and the Blues," he told reporters.
"We think he has a great rugby brain, he has the
respect of the players, he has my support and the support of the board."
Redman acknowledged fans' disappointment but said dropping
Umaga and his assistants was not necessarily the answer, although he said no
new contracts had been signed.
"In the end, we haven't been able to deliver and
changing coaches every cycle hasn't worked for the Blues previously," he
"I think our preferred option would be to try to work
with the group we have."
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 Irish Lions.
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, a team he coached to their first Ranfurly Shield success in
He took over the Blues after John Kirwan and Pat Lam had
both failed to turn around the team's fortunes.
The Blues last won the Super Rugby title in 2003 and they
have only made the playoffs twice since, most recently in 2011.