Former All Blacks midfielder Malakai Fekitoa predicts English youngster and fellow Wasps teammate Jacob Umaga has a bright future ahead of him.
The 21-year-old playmaker has been impressed since coming into the starting side for the Coventry-based Gallagher Premiership club in place of ex-All Blacks pivot Lima Sopoaga, who has recently suffered from illness.
Sopoaga is now back in selection contention, but has struggled to make an impact since arriving from the Highlanders as Danny Cirpriani’s replacement in 2018.
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The form of Umaga – the son of former Manu Samoa halfback, nephew of All Blacks legend Tana Umaga and cousin of Super Rugby midfielders Peter and Thomas Umaga-Jensen – could now heap extra pressure on the underwhelming Sopoaga.
“He’s been playing really well and is already leading us forward,” Fekitoa told The Rugby Paper.
“You can see he can handle pressure and do amazing stuff as well – for one so young he’s going to be great for the club.
“It’s exciting because he can break a tackle and is fast as well. His game-management is growing and you can see our attack has been getting better. At the same time, Lima is back now after his illness and we have Billy Searle, so it’s great to have that competition between them.”
While he has family ties to both Samoa and New Zealand, Umaga seems destined to represent England should he reach the heights of international rugby.
The former Auckland prospect, who played for the province in their title-winning Mitre 10 Cup campaign of 2018, has played for England at U20 level, and Fekitoa has little doubt that Umaga’s family pedigree will hold him in good stead for the future.
“I never played against Tana but he was a great player for New Zealand who everyone looked up to and you can see that runs through the family,” Fekitoa said.
“Jacob has spoken to Tana many times and learned a lot from the guy, so hopefully he can continue bringing that leadership to us.”
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