Tana Umaga and Leon MacDonald unite to lead Blues in 2019

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Tana Umaga and Leon MacDonald unite to lead Blues in 2019
AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - MAY 16: Leon MacDonald (L) and head coach Tana Umaga (R) during a Blues Super Rugby press conference at Blues Headquarters on May 16, 2018 in Auckland, New Zealand. MacDonald was today named as assistant coach of the Blues for the 2019 season. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

The Blues and New Zealand Rugby (NZR) have this week announced that Tasman Mako head coach and former Crusaders assistant coach, Leon MacDonald will unite with Tana Umaga to lead the Blues in 2019.

Tana Umaga will have his role as Head Coach extended by a further 12 months to the end of the 2019. The coaching appointments re-unite Umaga and MacDonald, who coached the New Zealand Under 20 team to win the World Rugby U20 Championship in 2015 – as well as playing together in the All Blacks.

Blues CEO Michael Redman said in a media release, that ‘while the Board is not satisfied with current performances’ it does not believe the answer is to change Head Coach at this time. “The Board believes there are positive improvements taking place at all levels at the club, and that Tana still has a contribution to make,” said Mr Redman.

“Changing Head Coach now would mean we throw out three years of hard-earned experience and starting again which we believe is the wrong thing to do.”

Leon MacDonald added to help unloack Blues potential

“The players support Tana’s plan and we feel we are close to unlocking the true potential of this group. In that respect we are absolutely thrilled to have attracted a coach of Leon’s stature to join the club to help achieve this,” Redmond concluded.

Playing 56 Tests for the All Blacks, and a centurion for the Crusaders, Leon MacDonald moved into coaching the Tasman Mako. He had one-year coaching for the Crusaders in Super Rugby before returning for a two-year appointment as Head Coach of the Mako in 2017.

“I’m extremely motivated to help with the Blues’ vision of being one of New Zealand’s most successful Super Rugby teams. I have coached with Tana with the New Zealand Under 20 team and I have a great deal of respect for him as a Head Coach,” said MacDonald.

“From what I have seen there is a strong culture and the facilities for players and coaches at the Blues is outstanding.”

Tana Umaga pleased to be reappointed for a further 12 months

“We are in the results business. Believe me, no-one at the Blues right now is happy with where we are at, but everyone has bought in to our plan, believes in it and works so hard every day to perform”.

Unfortunately, that has not been transferred onto the field. Umaga and the Blues now hold the unpleasant title as the first team to lose to the Sunwolves [2017] and this year, to the Jaguares. His coaching group has been seen as an area that could be boosted, to support the franchises hopes to ‘change the storyline’.

“While we will now sit down to plan our coaching roster for next year, I am thrilled to have Leon join us. We really gelled together with the successful Under 20s team and he has a fantastic coaching record already.

“I am sure he is going to bring a lot to this club going forward.”

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In an unseen parallel, the Blues host the Crusaders on Saturday night. Kick-off is at 7:35pm (NZT).

The Blues are yet to win a single fixture at home, so Umaga will want his team to impress their supporters. Matching themselves against the table-topping Crusaders, will be a true test of the potential of the Blues side – and of Umaga’s motivation and coaching attributes.

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