Time right to coach Blues in rugby: Umaga

New Blues coach Tana Umaga is under no illusions about the challenge ahead after being charged with turning around the fortunes of the struggling Super Rugby side.

But the former All Blacks captain says the time is right for him to take his coaching career to the next level.

“I’m a big believer in karma and I think it’s just something that came about,” he said.

“It’s good timing for me. I’ve toiled away in the ITM Cup and overseas, and Super Rugby was obviously the next step.”

Umaga, 42, takes over from another Test great in Sir John Kirwan, who resigned last week after three seasons during which the Blues failed to make the play-offs.

Kirwan’s last campaign in charge produced just three wins, the fewest the Blues have managed.

Umaga, who has signed a three-year deal, acknowledged that there would be no quick fix for a franchise that won the last of their three titles 12 years ago.

But he wouldn’t be going into the job with a feeling of trepidation.

“This is what we wake up in the morning for,” he said.

“We want to get out of our comfort zones. Obviously, I’ll be challenged and I’m looking forward to that.”

As a player, Umaga gained 74 All Blacks caps and made 122 appearances for the Hurricanes before returning to Super Rugby in 2011 after a four-year break for a stint with the Chiefs.

He was coach at French club Toulon and he has had success in three seasons at Counties Manukau.

Under him, the Steelers gained promotion to the top-tier Premiership and also held the Ranfurly Shield for the first time in their history.

He was also an assistant coach with the New Zealand under-20 side that has just won the junior world championship in Italy.

Umaga had been widely tipped to take over at the Blues as Kirwan’s tenure came to an end.

Glen Moore will remain as one of his assistants and Umaga is looking to add about two more staff to his coaching team.

Poor results precipitated Kirwan’s departure and Umaga cites the Blues’ recent record as something that had to change.

“We’re a club that is based on results and that’s what we have to drive,” he said.

“That’s what our fan base wants, that’s what everyone wants.”

Umaga will take up the Blues position full-time after completing his commitments with Counties Manukau in this year’s national provincial championship.

“I owe Counties and their board a lot for what they’ve done for me and the latitude they’ve given me,” he said.

“I hope I’ve repaid them for that and now I want to finish well with a young side.”

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