West has the inside lane

Date published: January 13 2016

Blues coach Tana Umaga is confident that Ihaia West has the capacity to assume full control of the Auckland team’s backline during the 2016 Super Rugby campaign.

Umaga, who took over the reins after the Blues’ disastrous 2015 season, said there was strong evidence that West has the skill and mental stamina to help his team out of the ashes this term.

“Ihaia West is the guy who has been in Super Rugby for three years,” Umaga told the New Zealand Herald on Wednesday.

“I was very impressed with him in last year’s ITM Cup. The growing of Ihaia [could be seen] in that kick to win the game. Some people have had issues with Ihaia’s mental temperament – being able to handle pressure situations. I just thought his game had grown in the ITM Cup,” added Umaga.

“He is the senior 10 there so it’s his job to lose at the moment… but everything’s open,” explained Umaga, suggesting that West would still need to prove that he deserves his new coach’s endorsement.

While Umaga is expected to bring about positive change in the team this season, he refuses to get ahead of himself during the current pre-season. He is under absolutely no illusions about the enormity of the task that lies ahead.