Timing 'right' for Umaga to take up Moana Pasifika coach role

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He said the Moana Pasifika concept was vital because it offered pathways for players, but to succeed, they had to work hard for that. The team had to be seen as the team to go to to improve their performance.

"That comes from building our performances and ensuring we leave no stone unturned.

"I feel I'm doing the right thing at the right time, not just for myself but for Pacific Island people.

"What it means to a lot of people, what it means to a lot of players, the opportunities for our Pacific Island nations, the purpose was strong, and it drew me to it, and made me put my name towards it."

Umaga said coaching had evolved since he first took on the role. That included how coaches talked, culture's importance, and treating people as individuals. Since returning to the Blues as an assistant coach after his earlier role as head coach, Umaga said he had learned more about preparation, not only with the rugby but the business side.

He had been contracted over the three seasons, which would allow him to apply all that he had learned and adapt it to Pacific Island rugby, something different from other environments. His role as defence coach for Manu Samoa's Rugby World Cup campaign in France reinforced that view.

"I always say it's not what I know but what the players learn because that's what they take onto the field. And if we can't pass on knowledge as coach then we're redundant in terms of what we offer."

He knows from his experience as a head coach what he is getting himself into.

"You get a lot more sleep as an assistant coach; you just do your job and then go home.

"I'm sure head coaches will tell you there's a lot that gets on your mind. The ability to manage up, sideways and down that's something I learnt with Leon. It just comes down to making sure everyone's informed about what's happening.

"There's a major difference. You're heading a programme; it's all on you. It's what everyone's looking at.

"I'm old enough now to be able to deal with that. I've really learnt from my time being an assistant."

Strengthening the side's defensive game would be important and something he would work on while ensuring the approach was accurate and not conceding penalties.

"Pacific Islanders, we love contact. We've just got to make sure that we can do it for a long time – 80 minutes would be great – and we work on our discipline and our accuracy around what we do."


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