Umaga hopeful for Pasifika team as squad named for match

  • Rugby
  • Tuesday, 24 Nov 2020

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - Former New Zealand captain Tana Umaga is enthusiastic about the potential of a Pasifika Super Rugby side entering the competition in 2022 after he revealed the invitational squad to face the Maori All Blacks next month.

Umaga was named as the coach for the one-off match by the Moana Pasifika team, which has been identified by New Zealand Rugby as a potential new entrant to Super Rugby in 2022 alongside a Fijian team.

The former All Blacks centre named 18 players with Super Rugby experience in a 26-man squad for the Dec. 5 game at Waikato Stadium in Hamilton. Nine of the squad are full internationals.

"We're very excited about (the match) and what could come after," the Auckland Blues assistant coach told TVNZ on Tuesday.

"At this stage, it really is about this one-off game but it's something that I know means a lot to a lot of people, especially our young players and our players coming through.

"When I reached out to them and asked them if they're interested... everyone was straight in.

"This is, hopefully, the start of something bigger."

Many of the players named for the Maori All Blacks game are already on Super Rugby teams, meaning any potential Moana Pasifika recruits would need to come from further afield, although Umaga doubted that would be an issue.

"I've been all over the world playing rugby, coaching rugby and it's funny - you'll go to the smallest corners in France, in Asia and you'll find Pacific Islanders playing there and you'll wonder how they got there," Umaga said.

"They've integrated into those communities and a lot of them will stay there because it's good for their families.

"(So) in my eyes, there has to be a development programme - something that's robust enough that they can actually get opportunities to develop their rugby players."

(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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