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Emotional Andy Farrell's lovely tribute to the late Inga Tuigamala

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Andrew Redington/Allsport)

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Ireland coach Andy Farrell has paid a beautifully emotional tribute to Va’aiga Tuigamala, his former Wigan rugby league teammate who sadly passed away on Thursday at the age of just 52. Having represented the All Blacks at the 1991 World Cup, ‘Inga the winger’ was already an established rugby union star when he breezed in through the doors of Farrell’s league club in England in 1993. 

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Six years younger than Tuigamala, Farrell was in awe of the Samoan-born legend’s talent during their time together at Wigan and the notification of his sudden death hit the Ireland coach so hard that he had to take a minute by himself on the Six Nations training ground to absorb the tragic news. 

Tuigamala played 102 games for Wigan, scoring 62 tries in that time, but it wasn’t just the prowess of his ability on the pitch that left a lasting impression on Farrell, who followed his friend in changing rugby codes and becoming a reputable union figure in his own right. “You’ve got me there because he’s a tremendous fella,” said Farrell when asked on Friday afternoon for his memories of his former league teammate.

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“I was very lucky to be able to spend some time with him. When you meet some people, they just touch you straight away from the off. His smile, his generosity, his just being as a person was outstanding. He touched everyone and he was very giving of his knowledge. I’m talking about him as a person here, how he was as a family man, devoted husband and father. 

“Whilst he was at Wigan the amount of people that used to come over and see him, not just family but friends shows what he means to people and when he left Wigan we was all gutted because he added so much to the group. So that’s him as a person and I suppose that is what we will miss first and foremost. 

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“From a rugby fans’ point of view, he was awesome. I mean, I was in awe of him. I was young. When I was playing with him I was in awe of his skill. He came over to rugby league and it was daunting for him because Inga had played (amateur era) rugby union on the wing, he wouldn’t have been used to being thrown into the professional game. 

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“I remember him being thrown into a game playing centre against the legend of Mal Meninga – what a tussle. He adapted unbelievably well because of his skill set and he had unbelievable feet for such a big, dynamic, powerful beast of a man, so I can’t say enough about him. 

“I was on the training field yesterday [Thursday] and it came up on my watch. I couldn’t believe it. I actually couldn’t believe it. I had to have a minute to myself. Prayers and thoughts are obviously with his nearest and dearest. Very sad news for everyone.”

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