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Tana Umaga
Tana Umaga.JPG
Umaga in 2005
Birth nameJonathan Falefasa Umaga
Date of birth (1973-05-27) 27 May 1973 (age 46)
Place of birthLower Hutt, Wellington, New Zealand
Height1.87 m (6 ft 2 in)
Weight100 kg (15 st 10 lb)
SchoolParkway College
(now Wainuiomata High School)
Notable relative(s)Mike Umaga (brother)
Jerry Collins (cousin)
SpouseRochelle Umaga
Rugby league career
Position(s) Centre
Amateur team(s)
Years Team Apps (Points)
1991–1993 Wainuiomata Lions ()
1992 Wellington ()
Rugby union career
Position(s) Centre, wing
All Black No. 961
Senior career
Years Team Apps (Points)
1994–95 Viadana Rugby ()
2005–06 RC Toulonnais 7 (10)
Correct as of 8 February 2007
Provincial / State sides
Years Team Apps (Points)
1994–07 Wellington 100 (260)
2010 Counties Manukau 10 (5)
Correct as of 11 August 2007
Super Rugby
Years Team Apps (Points)
1996–07 Hurricanes 122 (235)
2011 Chiefs 7 (5)
Correct as of 11 May 2007
National team(s)
Years Team Apps (Points)
1997–05 New Zealand 74 (180)
Teams coached
Years Team
2008–09 Toulon
2010–11 Counties Manukau (assistant)
2012–15 Counties Manukau
2015 New Zealand under-20 (assistant)
2016– Blues

Jonathan Ionatana Falefasa "Tana" Umaga ONZM (/ˈtɑːnəˈmʌŋə/; Samoan: [ˈtana ˈuːmaŋa]; born 27 May 1973) is a New Zealand former rugby union footballer and former captain of the national team, the All Blacks. Since 2016 he has been 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 22 games including the clean sweep of the 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.[1] 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.[2]

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.[3] 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 competition.[4]

Early life

Umaga was born in Lower Hutt, Wellington, New Zealand. He was born to Samoan immigrant parents, and grew up playing rugby league.[5] 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.[6] That same year he signed with the Newcastle Knights but within three weeks was back on the plane to New Zealand because of homesickness.[7] 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.[8] The brothers played on opposite teams in a Test match between Samoa and New Zealand in 1999 during which Tana scored two tries (the All Blacks won 71–13).[1]

Rugby union career


Umaga 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,[6] 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[9] (now broken by Rico Gear)[10] 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. With 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 midfield.[11][12]

2000 and 2001

With a new coach in Wayne Smith Tana Umaga became the regular wing in the 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",[13] scoring an early try. He signed a new four-year contract with the NZRU, and when Alama Ieremia took up a contract in Japan, Umaga decided to shift his focus to centre, despite scoring 9 tries in 7 tests on the wing that year.[13] After having played just one match at centre for the Hurricanes, Umaga 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 Nations or 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

Medal record
Representing  New Zealand
Olympic rings without rims.svg
Pierre de Coubertin medal 2003

Moving Umaga to the centres wasn't to everyone's liking claim this as a reason for his loss of pace.[14] Despite this Umaga was named as captain of the Wellington Lions and vice captain of the All Blacks under Anton Oliver in John Mitchell's first squad.[15] 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.[16]

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.[17] After the game Umaga received a call-up to the national team to play Fiji, but injured his knee mid game. Umaga 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. Umaga would go on to make the Tri-Nations XV; a team based on Zurich world player rankings.[18] 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.[19] Umaga was to lead the Hurricanes in 2003, taking over from Gordon Slater, under coach Colin Cooper.[20] The Hurricanes made the semi-finals for just the second time in their history after winning a team record seven times in a row,[21] shedding the inconsistent tag that had plagued them since the competition's inception.[22] 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 the International Fair Play Committee awarded Umaga the Pierre de Coubertin medal for outstanding sportsmanship.[23] Umaga was the first New Zealander to receive the award.[24] The Welsh Rugby Union also presented him with a figurine to honour the display of sportsmanship.

The 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. Umaga 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.[25] 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 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.[26] 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, when the 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 Haka leader.

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 to New Zealand on 25 June 2005 that caused friction between the Lions and All Blacks. Early in the Test, Umaga and hooker Keven Mealamu spear tackled 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.[27] The British and Irish media accused Umaga of foul play.[28][29] O'Driscoll and Lions management characterised the incident as a "deliberate spear tackle".[30] The independent citing commissioner found that neither Umaga nor Mealamu had a case to answer at the time due to inconclusive evidence,[31] but after viewing new amateur footage of the incident, Greg Thomas, communications manager for the sport's governing body, the 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.[32] Daily Telegraph London journalist Brendan Gallagher labelled it as one of the fifty 'ugliest moments' in sports.[33] 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.[34] 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 fellow 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, 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. Umaga's announcement led to Richie McCaw succeeding him as captain.[35] 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."[36]

2006 and 2007

A Polynesian man wearing a yellow rugby jersey and a black jacket with his arm raised
Tana Umaga waving goodbye to fans during his last match

For the 2006 Super 14 season Umaga handed the Hurricanes captaincy to All Black number eight Rodney So'oialo to focus on his own game.[37] The Hurricanes reached the semi-finals for the third time in four years. Out drinking after the 2006 Super 14 Final – in which the Hurricanes lost to the Crusaders – Umaga was seen in a bar hitting team mate 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.[38] In the 2006 Queen's Birthday Honours Umaga was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit in recognition of his dedicated service to rugby.[39]

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.[40] 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.[41] 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.[42]

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.[43] 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.

2011 return

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 signalled 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.


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,[44] 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 the 2016 Super Rugby competition, following the resignation of Sir John Kirwan from this role in June 2015.[45]

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.[46]


Umaga's brother Mike has represented Samoa at both rugby union and rugby league. Their cousin Jerry Collins was also an All Black. Nephews Peter and Thomas Umaga-Jensen have also represented Wellington at rugby at senior level. Romanian international Jack Umaga and Samoan international Sinoti Sinoti are also close relatives of Umaga.

Umaga is married to Rochelle; the couple have four children together.[47]


  1. ^ a b Tana Umaga at
  2. ^ "Umaga to Go Out on High". Sportinglife. 1 June 2007. Retrieved 6 April 2007.
  3. ^ "Toulon hold firm to deny Bourgoin". 26 March 2010. Retrieved 26 March 2010.
  4. ^ NZPA (15 March 2010). "Tana Umaga confirmed as player-coach for Counties". New Zealand Rugby Union. Retrieved 16 March 2010.
  5. ^ Ferguson, David (11 January 2006). "Umaga goes out on a high". The Scotsman. Archived from the original on 13 October 2007. Retrieved 7 March 2007.
  6. ^ a b Matheson (2006), pg 14.
  7. ^ Matheson (2006), pg 13.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ Matheson (2006), pg 17.
  10. ^ Weale, Hilary (5 November 2005). "One to Watch: Rico Gear". The Times. London. Retrieved 6 February 2007.
  11. ^ Matheson (2006), pg 27.
  12. ^ Matheson (2006), pg 28.
  13. ^ a b Matheson (2006), pg 41.
  14. ^ Matheson (2006), pg 45.
  15. ^ Matheson (2006), pg 56.
  16. ^ Matheson (2006), pg 65.
  17. ^ Matheson (2006), pg 66.
  18. ^ Matheson (2006), pg 71.
  19. ^ Tana Umaga at
  20. ^ Matheson (2006), pg 74.
  21. ^ Matheson (2006), pg 78.
  22. ^ "Hurricanes ride high in rankings". Retrieved 21 December 2006.
  23. ^ UNESCO Press (8 December 2004). "Sport prizes awarded by UNESCO" (Press release). UNESCO. Retrieved 12 March 2007.
  24. ^ "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.
  25. ^ Matheson (2006), pg 82.
  26. ^ Matheson (2006), pg 88.
  27. ^ "Hopefully this really seals it, that we have put this behind us and it is settled". The 42. 13 November 2018. Retrieved 13 November 2018.
  28. ^ "Grewcock banned for biting". The Daily Telegraph. London. 26 June 2005. Retrieved 6 June 2009.
  29. ^ "Umaga makes peace with O'Driscoll". Rugby Heaven. 29 March 2013. Retrieved 9 April 2013.
  30. ^ "Henry defends duo over O'Driscoll". BBC Sport. 28 June 2005. Retrieved 14 November 2006.
  31. ^ Orlovac, Mark and Jim Stokes (25 October 2005). "No action on new O'Driscoll video". BBC Sport. Retrieved 14 November 2006.
  32. ^ "NZ want O'Driscoll injury laid to rest". Independent Online. 26 October 2005. Retrieved 1 April 2006.
  33. ^ "Sports Ugliest moments". Fairfax Digital, Sydney Morning Herald. 8 July 2007. Retrieved 8 July 2007.
  34. ^ O'Driscoll nominates Umage Irish Independent article.
  35. ^ Matheson (2006), pg 104.
  36. ^ The Sonny Bill files: All you need to know and more,, dated 30 September 2011.
  37. ^ "New Hurricanes Captain". 11 January 2006. Retrieved 16 May 2007.
  38. ^ "Hurricanes Handbag & Cellphone". Trade Me.
  39. ^ The Queen's Birthday Honours 2006 Archived 19 July 2006 at the Wayback Machine on the Governor-General of New Zealand's website
  40. ^ "Mehrtens to take on S African citizenship". The Sunday Star-Times. 8 January 2006. Archived from the original on 30 September 2007. Retrieved 6 April 2006.
  41. ^ "Umaga signs with lowly Toulon". 29 June 2006. Archived from the original on 9 July 2006. Retrieved 29 June 2006.
  42. ^ "Umaga déjà en vedette (Umaga stars immediately)" (in French). 29 June 2006. Retrieved 29 June 2006.
  43. ^ "Umaga heads for home". 8 January 2007. Retrieved 8 January 2007.[dead link]
  44. ^ "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.
  45. ^ "'I think Tana would be fantastic' – Kirwan quits Blues" – via TVNZ.
  46. ^ "Umaga named as Head of Coach for the Blues". Archived from the original on 24 June 2015. Retrieved 24 June 2015.
  47. ^ Harris, Sarah (5 February 2018). "Filmmaker of Sharing the Love Rochelle Umaga shares whangai experience". NZ Herald. Retrieved 2 July 2018.


  • Matheson, John (2006). Tana Umaga – A Tribute to a Rugby Legend. Celebrity Books. ISBN 1-877252-29-8.

External links

Sporting positions
Preceded by
Reuben Thorne
All Blacks Captain
Succeeded by
Richie McCaw
Preceded by
Don Rowlands
Leadership Award
Succeeded by
John Graham
This page was last edited on 1 February 2020, at 19:20
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