Planet Rugby

Umaga not worried by NZ player exodus

12th June 2013 08:40

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Tana Umaga Counties coach 2013

Tana Umaga: Backs NZ's young talent

All Blacks great Tana Umaga has dismissed concerns about wealthy French and Japanese clubs luring New Zealand's top players, saying the depth of young talent in the country was enough to fill the gap.

Moving offshore was once considered something established New Zealand players would only look at as retirement loomed, but the money on offer is increasingly attracting those still in their prime.

Umaga, who enjoyed a successful spell in French club rugby after his glittering 74-Test career ended, said it meant provincial teams such as the Counties Manukau side he now coaches needed to focus more on player development.

"I don't think it's a bad thing because it makes people in my position work harder to develop the young ones coming through and keep putting players out there," he told reporters.

"I'm sure there are others that would say it's bad for New Zealand rugby because they're taking our players younger but it's just the way of the beast. We have to adapt to it and there's no use moaning about it."

A string of All Blacks including Hosea Gear, Richard Kahui, Lelia Masaga and Tamati Ellison have already accepted big-money overseas contracts this year and in-form centre Rene Ranger is reportedly mulling an offer to play in France.

Umaga said New Zealand, where rugby union's popularity far outstrips that of any other sporting code, could maintain a production line of top talent.

"It's strong," he added.

"Where I'm coaching there's talent out there and we've seen it all over the place.

"It's about the people who are there to work with it and nurture it to make sure we keep that lifeblood of New Zealand rugby flowing through."

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