Emerging England Star calls Close Series
WASPS prodigy Jacob Umaga concedes his loyalties will be split when the British and Irish Lions finally lock horns with New Zealand tomorrow.
Having only recently returned to the UK after starring for England at the under-20 world championships in Georgia, the Polynesian playmaker is sitting firmly on the fence when it comes to calling the outcome of the eagerly-anticipated series.
“I’ve got to support the England element of the Lions after coming through the under 18s, 19s and 20s, but I am a massive fan of New Zealand,” explained the 18-year-old. “I love the style of rugby they [the All Blacks] play and am split between the two in terms of which way the tour will go. I am just hoping for entertaining games of rugby.”
Playing style aside, Jacob’s soft spot for the southern hemisphere side is understandable given his family’s rugby roots. His father Mike won 13 caps for Samoa before setting up home in the UK while his uncle Tana played 74 times for New Zealand, captaining the All Blacks to 19 victories – including a clean sweep of the British and Irish Lions in 2005.
“I am England born and bred but I am proud of my other side – my Samoan heritage – and I talk to dad about it as much as I can,” added the Wasps academy player-of-the-year, who told Wooden Spoon it was hard to explain what it is like to have a New Zealand legend as part of his family.
“It is surreal,” he said. “You hear people talk about him being a great All Black, but to me, he’s just my uncle.”
Jacob’s reluctance to exclusively roar for the Lions is also likely to have been tempered by his own recent on-pitch experience. Having featured in the England side that was well-beaten 64-17 by the Baby Blacks in the final of the under-20 world championships in Tbilisi, he knows only too well about the might of tackling New Zealand.
“I definitely think the series will reach 1-1, but I’m not sure which way the final game will go,” he concluded. “New Zealand will win the first, the Lions will win the second and the last game will be very close.”
Read our exclusive interview with Jacob Umaga in the Autumn 2017 issue of Spoonews, in homes and rugby clubs this September. To view the Spring/Summer 2017 edition, click here.
Picture: RFU Collection