Samoan rugby legend leads masterclass

A SMALL group of Suffolk youngsters were given the ultimate southern hemisphere rugby experience last week by former Samoa captain Mike Umaga.

Stuart Watson

A SMALL group of Suffolk youngsters were given the ultimate southern hemisphere rugby experience last week by former Samoa captain Mike Umaga.

The 42-year-old - who played in two World Cups during the 1990s - now runs the Kaha Warrior Rugby Experience, an action packed series of three-day courses designed to educate young players through the ethos of the Pacific islands.

The course, run in conjunction with Suffolk-based firm Kids Klub, arrived at Finborough Hall near Stowmarket last week where 16 lucky children aged between eight and 14 were given not only a masterclass in rugby tuition, but also a lesson in culture.

On the first day, participants were given the traditional Kaha Warrior welcome and throughout the three days the youngsters were taught the various different haka dances traditionally used by southern hemisphere rugby teams.

The final day saw the children treated to a traditional Maori feast called Hangi where food is cooked in the ground with hot stones.

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Umaga, who was born in New Zealand to Samoan parents and whose brother Tana captained New Zealand, said: “Everything we do is based on the southern hemisphere ethos of respect, family and team work.

“Rugby has traditionally been a game based on those values but I do think that some of that has been going out of the game recently. There are a lot of unwritten laws of respect in rugby that are now being forgotten.

“It's not just rugby it's happening in, it's in other sports as well and that is probably a reflection on society in general.

“We have found though that, working with the younger generations, if you set the ground rules and bench marks early on then the children will stick with them.”

He added: “These are exciting times for rugby. The Tri Nations sparked everyone's imaginations and I think they gave rugby quite a big boost. Rugby is a super-charged, all-action game and the sooner everyone buys into that the better.

“With Martin Johnson at the helm it is exciting times for England too. He is a very astute man, is very well respected and, taking into account his time spent in New Zealand as a young player, I am sure he has picked up a few things from the southern hemisphere himself.”

Youngsters on the course were also given the opportunity to try a number of other activities outside of rugby in the afternoons, including climbing and abseiling.

For further information of the course please visit: www.kahawarrior.co.uk.

Mike Umaga Factfile

- Born to Samoan parents in Auckland, New Zealand in 1966.

- Moved to England in 1995 to sign for rugby league side Halifax.

- When rugby union turned professional he switched codes and joined Rotherham in 1997 as player/coach.

- In six seasons with Rotherham the versatile back played 133 games, scoring 38 tries, 85 conversions and 69 penalties.

- Signed for Coventry in 2004 initially as a backs coach before progressing to head coach in 2005.

- After a short spell as player/coach at lower league side Kenilworth, Umaga joined Nuneaton as head coach where he currently remains.

- As well as his Kaha warrior camps, Umaga coaches at Warwick School and Coventry University.

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