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Fashion-savvy ex-England No10 Jacob Umaga opens up on national switch

By Simon Thomas
Benetton players, from left, Jacob Umaga, Tomas Albornoz and Andy Uren react after their side concede their fourth try during the United Rugby Championship match between Ulster and Benetton at Kingspan Stadium in Belfast. (Photo By Ben McShane/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Jacob Umaga showed plenty of composure with his match-winning heroics for Benetton Rugby in Durban last weekend – which is rather appropriate given his business interests outside the game.

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Along with team-mate and good friend Paolo Odogwu, he is the joint owner of a clothing company called Composure Club.

It’s a venture they first embarked upon when they were together at Wasps some four years ago.

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“We were hanging out a lot as friends and we are both into fashion,” explains the England international.

“It was coming up to lockdown, so we thought why not give it a go.

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“He made a T-shirt for my birthday and from there we played around with different logos and did our first drop in May 2021.

“We kind of describe it as streetwear, comfort clothing for everyone really.

“We try to spread it as much as possible and target any and all ages. We have quite a broad range of customers.

“There has been support from a lot of people.

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“It’s mainly an online business at the moment, but we do have some stuff in the club shop at the Stadio Monigo. They have been really helpful.

“It’s something we knew wasn’t going to be an overnight thing, we kind of wanted to let it take time.

“The rugby is obviously our main thing. Then, when we get the time to put into the business we do that.

“The main goal for us was to have something to support life after rugby, to get something sorted while we are playing for when the time comes we have to hang our boots up, that we have something to fall back into.”

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Having moved to Benetton after Wasps folded in 2022, utility back Umaga was then reunited with his pal Odogwu at the Italian club the following year.

“It’s been such a good signing having him here, firstly for me as a friend and a business partner, but also because he has done so well,” he said.

“He’s really provided some impact, so it’s been good to have him here.”

Umaga has just about one of the most recognisable surnames in the game, with his father Mike having played Test rugby for Samoa and uncle Tana having captained New Zealand, amid winning 74 caps.

In addition, the late great All Blacks forward Jerry Collins was a cousin of his dad and uncle.

So given his rugby roots, was it inevitable that young Jacob would take up the sport?

“There wasn’t much family pressure, but it was always something that we did,” he replies.

“I was always watching my dad’s teams play or going to training with his clubs and I just kind of fell into it naturally.”

Rugby has taken Umaga to a fair few different destinations during his 25 years.

“I was born in Halifax when my dad was playing rugby league there,” he explains.

“Then he moved to Rotherham Rugby Union, so we lived up there for a bit and then he got a job at Coventry RFC which is why we moved down to the midlands.

“Then he got jobs at Warwick School, Birmingham University and a couple of clubs like Nuneaton and Stourbridge, so that’s why we stayed around there and I did all my schooling there.”

Educated at Kenilworth School in Warwickshire, Jacob was initially a member of the Leicester Tigers Academy, but left to join Wasps at 18.

Representative honours followed as he shared in England U20s Six Nations Grand Slam in 2017 and reached the World Championship final with them later that year.

A spell in New Zealand followed as he was part of the Auckland squad that won the Mitre Cup, while there were stints out on loan with Hinckley RFC and Yorkshire Carnegie.

On returning to Wasps, he established himself in the first team and scored a try from No 10 in the Premiership final against Exeter in 2020. The following year, he made his England Test debut off the bench versus the USA at Twickenham.

Then, in 2022, came the demise of Wasps – for whom he had made 72 appearances – and the move to Treviso where he has proved a valuable member of the Benetton squad with his ability to slot in at both fly-half and full-back.

Match Summary

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Penalty Goals
2
4
Tries
3
2
Conversions
2
0
Drop Goals
0
117
Carries
130
11
Line Breaks
9
18
Turnovers Lost
13
6
Turnovers Won
7

“It’s been good. It’s very different from living in Coventry, I must say!” he says.

“The summer period is absolutely amazing. We found out last year how hot it can get. It’s just been so nice, so different. We have so many people coming over to visit us because Italy is such a cool country to go to.”

It was as a replacement fly-half that Umaga made his super-sub intervention in the URC showdown with the Hollywoodbets Sharks in Durban last Saturday.

He went over for a try three minutes from time and then held his nerve to slot the match-winning conversion in a crucial 25-24 victory for the play-off chasing visitors.

“It was a bit nervy to be fair because when I scored the try I actually landed on my knee and my leg was a little bit numb,” he reveals.

“So I was kind of worrying a little bit if I was going to be alright for the kick, but I think the adrenalin got me through.”

Now it’s on to Pretoria for eighth-placed Benetton and this weekend’s meeting with the high-flying Vodacom Bulls.

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“There’s no doubt about it, it’s going to be a difficult challenge,” admits Umaga.

“Not many teams win there, so it’s a difficult place to go, but we are going there with the mindset to perform for 80 minutes and to get as much out of it as we can.”

This summer, it will be three years since Umaga won his solitary England cap, meaning he will be eligible to follow in his father’s footsteps by representing the land of his grandparents, Samoa.

“The longer I’ve been away from England, the more it’s been at the forefront of my mind,” he said.

“I’m just taking it step by step at the moment, but I’ll be open to playing for Samoa when I’m available.

“I think they are interested as well. It’s just in terms of timing and if I’m playing well enough to get picked.

“I would love to do it and, if it ever happens, I would be very grateful for that day.”

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