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Tana Umaga talks Moana Pasifika's 'purpose', Aaron Mauger's advice and more

By Ned Lester
Tana Umaga is welcomed ahead of the Rugby World Cup in France. Photo by PASCAL GUYOT/AFP via Getty Images)

Coaching Moana Pasifika is unlike coaching any other club in professional rugby, but that’s exactly why Tana Umaga wanted the role.

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The chance to represent his Samoan ‘aiga and harness the Pacific region’s raw talent ultimately made the appointment a natural fit for the former All Black.

But, with the team finishing bottom of the table in both of their opening seasons in the competition, the hill the club must climb remains steep.

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The bigger picture is front and centre for Umaga.

“The purpose of Moana Pasifika resonates with me,” he told Stuff.

“Assisting Pasifika players for the betterment of not just themselves and Moana, but also Samoa and Tonga. That made it easier for me to make this decision.

“I have had head coaching experience and there were tough lessons I had to learn around that.

“But also, watching other people working in that role and learning from them some of the things I can bring forward to this role now. That made it easier for me to say I’m ready for this.

“With being an assistant coach, I enjoy that. You just focus on one role, you go home and it’s pretty easy, you don’t have to think about much else, other than that role.

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“Head coach is different, there’s a lot more on it. But I believe I’m better equipped to handle those things outside of it and build a group that I know can handle it as well.”

The results of the first few seasons will be happily forgiven if the club can build a foundation for future success and streamline local development pathways, but there is pressure on that timeline.

“That’s an understanding and realisation that there’s a big picture to what we’re doing,” Umaga said.

“In Super Rugby, we’re still trying to get those wins. It is a fine balancing act and we won’t know if we’ve got it right until we start playing.

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“Learning from previous campaigns and the experiences we’ve had as coaches, we have got an experienced coaching group (Tom Coventry and Stephen Jones) and taking from this player group that’s been around for a while, we know the big picture, but we also know the responsibility for Moana and Pasifika rugby, is to get rewards and we need to start having success on the field.

“That’s what everyone is looking for. That’s what people want to support, so we’ve got to make sure we earn their support through putting in good performances that they’re proud of, and also that we’re proud of.

“Winning goes a long way towards putting more bums on seats and getting financial assistance. We’re not kidding ourselves.”

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With a record of 25 losses and three wins, previous Moana coach Aaron Mauger knows the challenges the club faces intricately.

Umaga revealed that the two had spoken before he made his decision to join the club.

“Right at the start, when I was initially thinking about the role, Aaron contacted me and it was really good to get his gauge,” Umaga said.

“He’s always offered his ear if I want to talk to him about anything and I’m sure I will at some stage.

“I’ve also understood the experiences I’ve had in teams I’ve been a part of and made sure I’ve implemented that.

”Going from the learnings of other guys, not just Aaron, but listening to the senior players who were here the last couple of years.

“I’ve got a good connection with some of them, while I was away with Samoa, so I have a good understanding around some of the issues and also some of the positive aspects that happened last year.

“I’m trying to make sure we build on the positive ones and see what we can do about those other issues we’re working away on.”

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Comments

1 Comment
R
Rugby 172 days ago

“Assisting Pasifika players for the betterment of not just themselves and Moana, but also Samoa and Tonga. That made it easier for me to make this decision.”
Well then, stop the AB’s (aka the Pacific Lions) from poaching Pasifika players. You know, it happens and how destructive it is.

Let AB’s with all their money and world class systems, develop their own and pick their own.
Let’s wait and see what New Ab’s coach does with selections.

For example, Pasifika players in AB’s (aka the Pacific Lions) RWC squads. It is increasing.

2015 – 4
2019 - 4
2019 - 8 (could have been 9 if Reece was not injured)

2015 squad
  1. Pauliasi Manu - Neiafu, Tonga
  2. Jerome Kaino - Faga'alu, American Samoa
  3. Malakai Fekitoa - Ha'apai, Tonga
  4. Waisake Naholo - Sigatoka, Fiji
2019 Squad
  1. Nepo Eti Laulala - Moto'otua, Samoa
  2. Aniseto Ofa He Moori Tuʻungafasi - Nukuʻalofa, Tonga
  3. Shannon Michael Frizell - Folaha, Tonga
  4. Sevuloni Lasei Reece - Nadi, Fiji
2023 RWC squad.
  1. Samisoni Frank Simpson Taukei'aho - Tongatapu, Tonga
  2. Nepo Eti Laulala - Moto'otua, Samoa
  3. Tyrel Shae Lomax - Canberra, Australia
  4. Aniseto Ofa He Moori Tuʻungafasi - Nukuʻalofa, Tonga
  5. Leicester Ofa Ki Wales Twickenham Fainga'anuku - Nukuʻalofa, Tonga
  6. Emoni Narawa - Suva, Fiji
  7. Finlay Turner Christie - Peebles, Scotland
  8. Shannon Michael Frizell - Folaha, Tonga

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