In a surprising move, ex-Crusaders fullback and current Tasman head coach Leon MacDonald has been signed as a Blues assistant coach for next season, with current head coach Tana Umaga receiving a 12-month contract extension.
“I’m extremely motivated to help with the Blues’ vision of being one of New Zealand’s most successful Super Rugby teams. I have coached with Tana with the New Zealand under-20 team and I have a great deal of respect for him as a head coach,” said MacDonald.
“From what I have seen there is a strong culture and the facilities for players and coaches at the Blues is outstanding.”
Tasman have made the last two Mitre 10 Cup Championship finals, before succumbing to Canterbury both times. MacDonald was an assistant with the title-winning Crusaders team in 2017 before stepping down to due family reasons. He will complete his last season with Tasman this year before moving to Auckland.
Umaga, despite only winning three matches in 11 rounds as head coach this season believes that the current plan will pay off in the long-term.
“We are in the results business. Believe me, no-one at the Blues right now is happy with where we are at, but everyone has bought in to our plan, believes in it and works so hard every day to perform,” he said.
“There are significant parts of every game where we are achieving that, and just a few basic things that let us down and convert those tight games into positive results.
The addition of MacDonald could prove to be fruitful for the Blues, with Umaga having previously worked with him at under-20 level.
“While we will now sit down to plan our coaching roster for next year, I am thrilled to have Leon join us. We really gelled together with the successful under-20 team and he has a fantastic coaching record already. I am sure he is going to bring a lot to this club going forward.”
Tasman Rugby Union chief executive Tony Lewis reserved high praise for MacDonald, calling him ‘the best young coach’ he’s seen come through the ranks.
“We’ve loved having Leon here but we recognise that he’s one of New Zealand’s great coaching talents and I’ve said to New Zealand Rugby at length for the past two or three years ‘don’t lose this man to overseas’ because he’s the best young coach I’ve seen come through.”
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