Jacob Umaga putting Auckland lessons to use

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 Umaga, 21, has been impressing along with other emerging five-eighths James Grayson and Manu Vunipola as potential future England Test players and has been making getting starts difficult for Wasps for former All Black and Highlanders star Lima Sopoaga.

 

Umaga said injuries to Sopoaga and another Wasps player had provided him with chances in the first part of the season that he had taken well.

 

"I was quite close to getting a run last year so to get on the pitch now has been brilliant and getting that first Premiership start at Exeter was very special," he told The Rugby Paper.

 

"It's been a big learning curve but the time spent in New Zealand last year was massive for me and then coming back and playing for Yorkshire Carnegie helped my development. Being in those environments helped me a lot off the field as well," he said.

 

Time spent with Auckland in 2018 had been special.

 

"New Zealand gave me a different perspective on rugby.

 

"You can get quite bogged down as a young player here when you're training not really playing a lot, but being down there for that season really boosted my love for the game.

 

"I went to Auckland before their Mitre 10 Cup squad had been announced so to begin with I was playing club rugby with guys who'd been working all day. It was the equivalent of National League rugby here [in Britain] and the culture was so much different – but you could see how much those guys loved just playing and I found that really inspiring," he said.

 

Added to that, getting to play a fair amount of rugby had been brilliant, especially when playing alongside Super Rugby players and All Blacks Dalton Papalii and Patrick Tuipulotu which had been a great experience.

 

Umaga was conscious of the contest among the young contenders in the English game.

 

"We're all around the same age and were in and around England Under-20s together so we all know each other pretty well. It'll be interesting to see how we all go in future years and hopefully we can push on towards something bigger," he said.

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