Boom sensation Peter Umaga-Jensen has been one of the breakout performers of Super Rugby Aotearoa, with another two-try performance against the Chiefs cementing his place as one of New Zealand’s best up-and-coming talents.
One of the most impressive aspects of his game has been his line running, which has an uncanny knack of breaching opposition defences.
The Hurricanes centre has six line breaks in just four games, giving him not only one of the highest line break rates in the competition behind Sevu Reece, Richie Mo’unga and Will Jordan, but the highest of any midfielder.
“He’s great at cutting a line and going between players. He never runs directly at a player, so you don’t get a good chance at him,” Blues hooker James Parsons explained on the Aotearoa Rugby Pod.
“When someone runs between you, its almost awkward because you end up swinging round and clashing heads with your mate.
“And that’s the best way to break tackles and make gain line. He’s great at that, he scored a try doing a similar thing [against the Chiefs] the other night.
Umaga-Jensen is quickly rising up the ranks and has landed on the national radar after only a handful of Super Rugby games, but earning All Blacks duties has its challenges with a ‘logjam’ of midfielders around the country.
“You got Anton [Lienert-Brown], you got Rieko, who I think is probably the form 13. Ngani’s out injured so it does open up a chance there, but I think he is more a 13 than a 12,” Parsons said.
“You got Jack [Goodhue], you can’t forget Ennor was in and around the All Blacks. When he’s been out there he has performed.
“You look at that kick that he put through against us [the Blues] to pin Beaudy into the corner down in Christchurch. He’s got that added ability of finesse, he’s got the pace, he’s got the power so he has to be considered as well.
“But in terms of current form, Peter’s right up there, but there is a logjam from where I sit.”
The All Black midfield is a competitive space which history shows often guys have to bide their time.
Ryan Crotty had to wait years and years behind Conrad Smith, while Ngani Laumape missed out on heading to the World Cup last year, emulating another former Hurricane when a young Ma’a Nonu was left out in 2007.
Crusaders halfback Bryn Hall agreed that the nature of the role tends to favour those with more experience at test level.
“100 percent it is one most important positions in both attack and defence. They are the eyes to the outsides, and got to talk to the inside backs as well,” Hall explained.
“The thing that I’ve been most impressed with Peter is his ability to distribute as well. Those little finesse touches that centres need at that next level, you are starting to see that.
“I know he’s a great runner, strong and a great ball carrier but those little things around certain touches, little kicks in behind, that takes pressure off your team.
Although Umaga-Jensen may not get the call up, Hall reiterated that any form player deserves to be in the conversation.
“He’s a young man as well, he hasn’t played a lot at this level, but for a guy that’s performing it’s got to definitely led to being in that conversation that’s for sure.
Listen to the full episode of the Aotearoa Rugby Pod below.
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