Hopes Umaga will cure box holder blues

Blues appoint Tana Umaga as head coach, corporate box holders hope for better on field performance.   Hamish McNicol talks about the latest Blues coaching news on NBR Radio and on demand on MyNBR Radio.

To build your own NBR Radio playlist and enjoy instant on-demand access to any audio, sign up for our FREE smartphone-only subscription to NBR ONLINE.

Former All Blacks captain Tana Umaga has been confirmed as Blues head coach from next year.

The widely-speculated appointment was announced by the Blues and New Zealand Rugby in the franchise’s new home base at Alexandra Park in Auckland today.

The former Hurricanes great has signed a three-year deal following the resignation of Sir John Kirwan as head coach last week.

Corporate box holders and members will be hoping Mr Umaga’s appointment can bring better on field performances to the struggling franchise, with Sir John only winning 35% of the games where he was in charge.

The Blues won just three games this season, finishing second to last in the 15 team competition – its worst season.

Mr Umaga is unproven at Super Rugby level but has had early success in his coaching career, including as assistant coach of the Junior World Cup-winning New Zealand Under-20s this year.

He joined ITM Cup team Counties-Manukau Steelers in 2010 before being appointed head coach in December, 2011, after which the team won its first Ranfurly Shield and gained promotion to the ITM Cup Premiership.

Before this he was influential at Toulon in France, coaching the team to promotion to European club rugby’s Top 14 competition.

Mr Umaga says he is thankful to be a part of a team steeped in history.

“I believe in actions on the field speaking for themselves and I'm looking forward to this challenge."

Box holders have struggled to fill boxes this year because of the team’s poor performances and resultant lack of interest in the Blues.

Eden Park Trust chief executive David Kennedy also resigned earlier this month, having taking charge in 2010.

In September, 2013, the Blues were taken over by Blues Management Ltd, 40% owned by Corporate Cabs owner Murray Bolton’s Bolton Equities, after a $4 million investment, and 60% owned by Rugby Holdings, owned by the Auckland, North Harbour and Northland unions.

A messy boardroom dispute between private investors in the Blues and the Auckland Rugby Union is understood to be continuing but Blues chairman Tony Carter today says Mr Umaga’s appointment has unanimous support.

To build your own NBR Radio playlist and enjoy instant on-demand access to any audio, sign up for our FREE smartphone-only subscription to NBR ONLINE.