Jonathan Ionatana Falefasa "Tana" Umaga, ONZM (/ˈtɑːnə
ˈuːmʌŋə/; Samoan: [ˈtana ˈuːmaŋa]; born 27 May 1973) is
New Zealand rugby union footballer and former captain of the
national team, the All Blacks; since 2016 has been the coach of the
Blues in the
Super Rugby competition.
He played for the Hurricanes from Super 12's inception in 1996 and
took over the captaincy in 2003.
Graham Henry named him as All Blacks
captain in 2004; under his leadership the
All Blacks won 19 of their
21 games including the clean sweep of the
British and Irish Lions
British and Irish Lions and
the Grand Slam in 2005. At the end of 2005, after 74 Test caps (where
he scored 36 tries), Umaga retired from international rugby. Umaga
played four games in 2007 for the
Wellington Lions in the Air New
Zealand Cup, to play 100 matches for the province, before taking up
the position of coach at Toulon.
During his first season coaching in 2008–09 season Toulon was a poor
performer in the first half of the season and facing a relegation
scare, and there was speculation that he would be replaced by Philippe
Saint-André. Umaga returned to a playing role for Toulon in the
second half of that season, and at the same time announced that he
would not continue as head coach beyond that season. After helping
Toulon exit relegation trouble (they ultimately finished ninth that
season), he retired as a player, and remained at Toulon as assistant
coach for backs under Saint-André. In March 2010, Umaga again
returned to the playing ranks following a serious hip injury to
Christian Loamanu. Umaga returned to
New Zealand after the
2009–10 French season to become a player-coach with Counties Manukau
and played with the Waikato Chiefs in the 2011 Super Rugby
1 Early life
Rugby union career
2.2 2000 and 2001
2.3 2002 and 2003
All Black captain: 2004 and 2005
2.5 2006 and 2007
3.1 Return to Rugby
6 External links
Umaga was born in Lower Hutt, Wellington, New Zealand. He was born to
Samoan immigrant parents, and grew up playing rugby league. Umaga
played for the
Wainuiomata Lions and rose through the ranks, making
the Wellington U-16 and U-17 sides, and was eventually named in the
Junior Kiwi side of 1991.The side also featured future National Rugby
League stars Joe Vagana,
Ruben Wiki and Gene Ngamu. That same year
he signed with the
Newcastle Knights but within three weeks was back
on the plane to
New Zealand because of homesickness. He never did
play a First-Grade NSWRL Premiership game. In 1993 Tana's brother
Mike, who played rugby union for Manu Samoa, persuaded him to take up
rugby union in 1994. The brothers played on opposite teams in a
Test match between Samoa and
New Zealand in 1999 during which Tana
Umaga scored two tries (the
All Blacks won 71–13).
Rugby union career
Tana played wing for the
Wellington Lions in 1994 and quickly became a
fixture in the starting line-up alongside his brother who also played
on the wing. Umaga scored more tries than any other player within the
team for three successive years, and in 1996 was selected for the
original Hurricanes squad. In his second season playing for the
Hurricanes he scored a
New Zealand record of 12 tries (now broken
by Rico Gear) and earned a call up to the national team at the
expense of an ill Jonah Lomu. He scored a try in his debut test match.
Jonah Lomu regaining his fitness, coupled with a drop in form,
Umaga was dropped from the
All Blacks until the 1999 season. To
accommodate outside backs Umaga, Lomu, Wilson and Cullen 1996–99 All
Black coach John Hart moved Fullback
Christian Cullen into the
2000 and 2001
With a new coach in Wayne Smith
Tana Umaga became the regular wing in
All Blacks line-up. Worries about the shape of the team were swept
aside when the team smashed Tonga 102–0, in a game where debutantes
Troy Flavell and
Doug Howlett starred. He also played in the first
Bledisloe Cup match in 2000, dubbed "the game played in heaven",
scoring an early try. He signed a new four-year contract with the
NZRU, and when
Alama Ieremia took up a contract in Japan Tana Umaga
decided to shift his focus to centre, despite scoring 9 tries in 7
tests on the wing that year. After having played just one match at
centre for the Hurricanes Tana slotted into the midfield for the All
Blacks against France, the team that beat the
All Blacks in the
semi-final of the World cup the previous year. Umaga had a strong game
in a victory. The 2000 season was one of Umaga's best, with him being
awarded the Kelvin Tremain Memorial Trophy for
New Zealand rugby
player of the year. While the Smith era introduced a number of new
players into the
New Zealand team, they could not reclaim the Tri
Bledisloe Cup in 2000 or 2001. This led to his sacking and
the hiring of former
All Black mid-week player and successful Chiefs
coach John Mitchell.
2002 and 2003
Representing New Zealand
Pierre de Coubertin medal
Moving Umaga to the centres wasn't to everyone's liking claim this as
a reason for his loss of pace. Despite this Umaga was named as
captain of the
Wellington Lions and vice captain of the All Blacks
Anton Oliver in John Mitchell's first squad. Early on, John
Mitchell and assistant coach
Robbie Deans favoured Crusader Mark
Robinson in the midfield. The squad to play against Italy and Ireland
as well as compete in the Tri Nations did not feature Umaga. Despite
news reports about him carrying a knee injury, on the day when the All
Blacks were to take on Italy, Umaga played for his club Petone.
Umaga, along with
Taine Randell the
All Blacks 1999 world cup captain,
were asked to play for the
New Zealand Barbarians against the New
Zealand Māori. Randell himself was Māori and did not wish to play
against them, and Umaga was placed on the wing a position stated he
didn't want to play. After the game Tana received a call-up to the
national team to play Fiji, but injured his knee mid game. Tana told
the coaches he was fit for selection for the Bledisloe match tie
against Australia but was again no selected,
Daryl Gibson taking the
spot on the bench. Umaga again turned out for Petone.
Umaga came off the bench against South Africa at his home ground
Westpac Stadium. Tana would go on to make the Tri-Nations XV; a team
based on Zurich world player rankings. Many considered him a good
chance to take over the captaincy on the end of year tour from injured
regular captain Reuben Thorne, but that role was instead handed to
Taine Randell. Umaga was to lead the Hurricanes in 2003, taking
over from Gordon Slater, under coach Colin Cooper. The Hurricanes
made the semi-finals for just the second time in their history after
winning a team record seven times in a row, shedding the
inconsistent tag that had plagued them since the competition's
inception. His form was recognised and he was rewarded with a spot
in the All Blacks, named as vice-captain under
Reuben Thorne who would
lead the team to the World Cup.
In a test match against Wales on 21 June 2003, Welsh captain Colin
Charvis was knocked out in a tackle from
All Blacks forward Jerry
Collins. Umaga stopped playing despite his team being in an attacking
position; to check that Charvis had not swallowed his mouthguard. He
placed him in the recovery position and for this act, the Council of
International Fair Play Committee
International Fair Play Committee awarded Umaga the Pierre de
Coubertin medal, a prestigious award for outstanding
sportsmanship. Umaga was the first New Zealander to receive the
Welsh Rugby Union
Welsh Rugby Union also presented him with a figurine to
honour the display of sportsmanship.
All Blacks defeated the Springboks 52–16 and the Wallabies
50–21 away from home in consecutive weeks.
New Zealand won both home
matches as well, claiming the Tri Nations title and the Bledisloe Cup.
This was the first time the
All Blacks had won the Bledisloe since
1997. The performance had them regarded as early favourites to win the
years World Cup, along with the eventual winners England.
The opening match of the tournament was to be the
All Black last Rugby
World Cup appearance. In an attempted back line move, Umaga collided
with star Five-Eighth Carlos Spencer. Spencer came out unhurt but
unfortunately Umaga suffered a damaged posterior cruciate ligament in
his left knee and was forced to leave the field. Tana would not be
play again in the tournament despite being declared fit to play in the
semi-final by then
All Blacks doctor John Mayhew. Leon MacDonald
the regular backup Fullback, was preferred in the centre spot. The All
Blacks would lose the game to Australia 22–10 and again fail to
reach the final.
The aftermath of the world cup was similar to the last, as coach John
Mitchell was dropped. Only two coaches applied for the position of All
Blacks head coach, Mitchell who re-applied and Graham Henry. Graham
Henry was the former coach of the Blues and was told he would never
receive the top job after leaving
New Zealand shores to take up a
contract with the Wales national team. Henry's experience in New
Zealand and overseas, as well as the skill shown in turning around the
Welsh team worked in his favour and he secured the job.
All Black captain: 2004 and 2005
Graham Henry's first choice as captain of his team was Tana Umaga, and
after a disappointing Super 12, in which the Hurricanes came 11th, was
selected to replace Reuben Thorne. He was the first New Zealander of
Pacific Island heritage to captain the
All Blacks in a test match.
Umaga's captaincy began well, with victory in the first six tests,
including two victories against World Cup holders England. One of
them, a 36–3 win in Dunedin, was at the time the heaviest loss ever
by a World Cup holding team. The
All Blacks of 2004 successfully
managed to regain the Bledisloe Cup. The winning run came to an end,
All Blacks lost in both away games against Australia and
South Africa, putting the
All Blacks out of contention for the 2004
Tri Nations Series. in Paris in 2004 Umaga became the first New
Zealand rugby player of non-Maori descent to lead the Haka, thus
making him the Prematch
In the 2004 end-of-year tour he oversaw the introduction of Dan Carter
in the position of First-Five Eighth and a large 45–6 victory over
the French. Umaga also celebrated his 100th match for the Hurricanes,
when his team overcame the Blues. They made the semi-final for the
second time in three years, but again stumbled to a loss to the
champion Crusaders. In 2005 the British & Irish Lions toured, on
top of the Tri Nations and the potential Grand Slam tour of England,
Scotland, Wales and Ireland.
Umaga was involved in an incident in the first Test of the Lions tour
New Zealand on 25 June 2005 that caused friction between the Lions
and All Blacks. Early in the Test, Umaga and hooker Keven Mealamu
upended Lions captain
Brian O'Driscoll in a post-ruck clean-out.
O'Driscoll required surgery on a dislocated shoulder and missed the
rest of the tour. The British and Irish media accused Umaga of foul
play. O'Driscoll and Lions management characterised the
incident as a "deliberate spear tackle". The independent citing
commissioner found that neither Umaga nor Mealamu had a case to answer
at the time due to inconclusive evidence, but after viewing new
amateur footage of the incident, Greg Thomas, communications manager
for the sport's governing body, the
International Rugby Board
International Rugby Board (IRB),
described the tackle as "unacceptably dangerous" and stated that IRB
was instructing referees to suspend players for three to six months
for such offences. Daily Telegraph London journalist Brendan
Gallagher labelled it as one of the fifty 'ugliest moments' in
sports. In August 2014
Brian O'Driscoll renewed his rivalry with
Tana Umaga when he completed the ALS ice bucket challenge and
immediately nominated the Umaga.
New Zealand was undefeated during
the Lions tour and won the Tri-Nations, which included the retention
of the Bledisloe Cup. The IRB shortlisted Umaga for their 2005
International Player of the Year award (an honour eventually won by
All Black Dan Carter). Umaga also led the
All Blacks to their
second Northern Hemisphere Grand Slam. After playing 74 test matches
for his country
Tana Umaga confirmed his retirement from international
rugby at a press conference on 10 January 2006. His main reason for
retiring was to spend more time with his family as he had just had
another child with his wife Rochelle. Tana Umaga's announcement led to
Richie McCaw succeeding him as captain. Umaga gave the All Blacks
shirt he wore in his final game to Sonny Bill Williams, who stated
afterwards: "Just getting that jersey gave me butterflies. Hopefully
one day I can put on the real thing."
2006 and 2007
Tana Umaga farewelling fans during his final match
2006 Super 14 season Umaga handed the Hurricanes captaincy to
All Black number eight
Rodney So'oialo to focus on his own game.
The Hurricanes reached the semi-finals for the third time in four
years. Out drinking after the
2006 Super 14 Final
2006 Super 14 Final – in which the
Hurricanes lost to the Crusaders – Umaga was seen in a bar hitting
Chris Masoe with a woman's handbag, breaking her cell phone,
after Masoe allegedly attempted to strike another patron. Umaga
replaced the woman's damaged cell phone, and the woman went on to sell
her handbag and broken cell phone for NZD23,000 on the New Zealand
internet auction site Trade Me. In the 2006 Queen's Birthday
Honours Umaga was made an Officer of the
New Zealand Order of Merit
New Zealand Order of Merit in
recognition of his dedicated service to rugby.
In the months to come he was reported to be on the wish lists of many
top European clubs; his former All Black's teammate Andrew Mehrtens
was forced to publicly deny rumours that Umaga was a target of his
club at the time – Harlequins. Umaga eventually signed for
French club Toulon that had been recently relegated from the
Top 14 to
Pro D2. His contract allowed him to play the entire 2006 Air New
Zealand Cup (ANZ Cup) season for Wellington before travelling to
France. He ended up playing only seven matches for Toulon as
Wellington made the ANZ Cup final. He nonetheless made roughly
€350,000 (US$438,000/GBP 250,000) that Toulon's co-presidents
reportedly paid out of their own pockets. The day before playing
his first match for Toulon he was awarded the medal of honour of the
city of Toulon (médaille d'or de la ville) by Mayor Hubert Falco. On
29 October 2006, Umaga started in his first game three days after
arriving in Toulon scoring his team's only try in a 22–16 victory
against Lyon. He was surprised to see how close to the players the
fans were and how noisy the atmosphere was.
Umaga returned to
New Zealand at the end of his contract with Toulon
following their 7 January 2007 win over Grenoble. When Umaga arrived
in Toulon they were ninth in the Pro D2 table; when he left they had
risen to third. Toulon won eight of nine matches with Umaga on the
roster – the only loss coming when he was out injured. Umaga
played his last season for the Hurricanes in 2007. His last match for
them was on 5 May 2007 at Wellington's Westpac Stadium. On 25
September 2007, Umaga released a book detailing his career.
During the 2008/09
Top 14 season, Umaga's coaching future was
uncertain because Toulon were struggling at midseason and were in
danger of relegation. This led to speculation in January 2009 that he
would be replaced as manager by Philippe Saint-André. This was
confirmed on 27 January 2009, with Umaga taking on the role as
player/manager at the age of 35, and at the same time announcing he
would not return as head coach for the following season. A late-season
return to form eventually brought Toulon to mid-table safety in ninth
place. Saint-André took on the managing role effective at the
beginning of the 2009/10 season, but kept Umaga on as Toulon's
backs coach. On Friday, 12 March 2010, Counties Manaukau announced
that Umaga had signed for the province as a player coach for the Air
New Zealand Cup. Counties competed well, with two hard-fought Ranfurly
Shield challenges and a peak of second on the points table. Counties
ended the season in ninth.
Umaga was widely tipped to sign on as head of the Blues franchise for
Super Rugby competition, following the resignation of Sir
John Kirwan from this role in June 2015.
It was confirmed on 23 June 2015 that Umaga would take over as head
coach of The Blues at the end of the 2015 ITM Cup Season.
Return to Rugby
Tana Umaga was named in the Chiefs' starting line-up for their opening
Super Rugby fixture of the 2011 season to face the ACT Brumbies. This
signals his first Super rugby game since he was a Wellington
Hurricanes regular in 2007. After playing 7 games he officially
retired as a player at the end of 2011 ITM cup season.
^ a b
Tana Umaga at AllBlacks.com
^ "Umaga to Go Out on High". Sportinglife. 1 June 2007. Retrieved 6
^ "Toulon hold firm to deny Bourgoin". Scrum.com. 26 March 2010.
Retrieved 26 March 2010.
^ NZPA (15 March 2010). "
Tana Umaga confirmed as player-coach for
New Zealand Rugby Union. Retrieved 16 March 2010.
^ Ferguson, David (11 January 2006). "Umaga goes out on a high". The
Scotsman. Archived from the original on 13 October 2007. Retrieved 7
^ a b Matheson (2006), pg 14.
^ Matheson (2006), pg 13.
^ Jancetic, Steve (7 August 2008). "Umaga the reason for Sonny's
move". Fox Sports. Archived from the original on 22 November 2008.
Retrieved 8 August 2008.
^ Matheson (2006), pg 17.
^ Weale, Hilary (5 November 2005). "One to Watch: Rico Gear". The
Times. London. Retrieved 6 February 2007.
^ Matheson (2006), pg 27.
^ Matheson (2006), pg 28.
^ a b Matheson (2006), pg 41.
^ Matheson (2006), pg 45.
^ Matheson (2006), pg 56.
^ Matheson (2006), pg 65.
^ Matheson (2006), pg 66.
^ Matheson (2006), pg 71.
Tana Umaga at AllBlacks.com
^ Matheson (2006), pg 74.
^ Matheson (2006), pg 78.
^ "Hurricanes ride high in rankings". thefanatics.com. Retrieved 21
^ UNESCO Press (8 December 2004). "Sport prizes awarded by UNESCO"
(Press release). UNESCO. Retrieved 12 March 2007.
^ "Umaga out to tame Lions". British & Irish Lions. Lions Rugby. 7
April 2005. Archived from the original on 22 October 2006. Retrieved
13 March 2007.
^ Matheson (2006), pg 82.
^ Matheson (2006), pg 88.
^ "Grewcock banned for biting". The Daily Telegraph. London. 26 June
2005. Retrieved 6 June 2009.
^ "Umaga makes peace with O'Driscoll". Rugby Heaven. 29 March 2013.
Retrieved 9 April 2013.
^ "Henry defends duo over O'Driscoll". BBC Sport. 28 June 2005.
Retrieved 14 November 2006.
^ Orlovac, Mark and Jim Stokes (25 October 2005). "No action on new
O'Driscoll video". BBC Sport. Retrieved 14 November 2006.
^ "NZ want O'Driscoll injury laid to rest". Independent Online. 26
October 2005. Retrieved 1 April 2006.
^ "Sports Ugliest moments". Fairfax Digital, Sydney Morning Herald. 8
July 2007. Retrieved 8 July 2007.
^ O'Driscoll nominates Umage Irish Independent article.
^ Matheson (2006), pg 104.
^ The Sonny Bill files: All you need to know and more,
nz.lifestyle.yahoo.com, dated 30 September 2011.
^ "New Hurricanes Captain". hurricanes.co.nz. 11 January 2006.
Retrieved 16 May 2007.
^ "Hurricanes Handbag & Cellphone". Trade Me.
^ The Queen's Birthday Honours 2006 Archived 19 July 2006 at the
Wayback Machine. on the Governor-General of New Zealand's website
^ "Mehrtens to take on S African citizenship". The Sunday Star-Times.
8 January 2006. Retrieved 6 April 2006. [dead link]
^ "Umaga signs with lowly Toulon". Planet-Rugby.com. 29 June 2006.
Archived from the original on 9 July 2006. Retrieved 29 June
^ "Umaga déjà en vedette (Umaga stars immediately)" (in French).
Eurosport.fr. 29 June 2006. Retrieved 29 June 2006.
^ "Umaga heads for home". Planet-Rugby.com. 8 January 2007. Retrieved
8 January 2007. [dead link]
^ "Umaga out of retirement for Toulon". Television New Zealand.
Reuters. 27 January 2009. Archived from the original on 13 June 2011.
Retrieved 17 November 2011.
^ "'I think Tana would be fantastic' – Kirwan quits Blues" – via
^ theblues.co.nz. "Umaga named as Head of Coach for the Blues".
Archived from the original on 24 June 2015. Retrieved 24 June
Matheson, John (2006).
Tana Umaga – A Tribute to a Rugby Legend.
Celebrity Books. ISBN 1-877252-29-8.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Tana Umaga.
Tana Umaga at AllBlacks.com
New Zealand Rugby Museum article on Umaga
Rugby Club Toulonnais
NZ Herald article on Umaga retirement
ABC article on Umaga retirement
"Tana Umaga". itsrugby.fr. Retrieved 2 June 2007.
Tana Umaga profile
All Blacks Captain
Pierre de Coubertin medal
Pierre de Coubertin medal recipients
Karl Heinz Klee
Justin Harley McDonald
Vanderlei de Lima
New Zealand squad – 2003 Rugby World Cup
Atiga (injury replacement)
New Zealand squad – 1999
Rugby World Cup
Rugby World Cup (4th Place)
Blues – current squad
Antonio Kiri Kiri
T. J. Faiane
Sonny Bill Williams