Tana Umaga excited by Maori All Blacks role

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Lynn McConnell     14 Sep 2016     Getty Images

Umaga, of Samoan heritage, said he had no problem getting involved with the Maori team.


It was a huge honour to be asked and appointed, he said and it was something really exciting to be part of such a successful group steeped in a lot of history with a long legacy.

"With my own Samoan background, the cultures are very similar and I know, having been around a lot of the Maori culture in my upbringing, how important it is and the respect it deserves. I'm really excited about the opportunity," he said.

Umaga was coached by Maori All Blacks coach Colin Cooper during the latter years of his time with the Hurricanes and he said Cooper was someone who had a big effect on the way he coached.

"It's a great opportunity for me to get back with Colin again and also evolve as a coach. That's what I'm looking forward to as well.

"I've been in contact with Colin for a while. I did drop the hint that 'if you were ever looking for a coach I would be very keen to do it' and it just so happened that I did get a phone call back so that was great," he said.

Umaga said in his role as backs coach he brought his knowledge of the game to the side.

The Maori All Blacks style was well known and established.

"I like that expansive game. Obviously my brief there is around the back play and attack so I want to make sure that we're keeping true to the values of Maori rugby but also trying to add to it. To upskill the players as much as we can in the short, limited time that we have and that they enjoy it."

There wouldn't be a lot of time in preparation available because of the time between the end of the Mitre 10 Cup competition and the first game on tour, against the United States Eagles in Chicago on Friday, November 4. The will be followed a week later with Munster in Limerick and on Wednesday, November 16 against Harlequins at Twickenham Stoop in London.

"There's not a lot of time at all after the end of the Mitre 10 Cup. It's the day after we take off, you name the squad and make sure we medically assess everyone and that they're all good to go and hoping, fingers crossed, more than anything that no players get injured that you select and things like that. But that's just the way it is and talking to Colin and Carl Hoeft, who is the other assistant coach, that's what they're used to so it's just something that we have to grin and bear and work with what we can do. "

It was an exciting tour and involved some unique destinations and opportunities for the players that they would remember for the rest of their lives, he said.

"It is pretty exciting to be part of that and I'm really looking forward to that," he said.

From his own point of view he would looking to learn more about the culture within the Maori All Blacks and also how he could add to that and enhance the experience for the players while helping the side succeed because that was what they were setting out to do.