Comeback was my decision, says Umaga - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Comeback was my decision, says Umaga

29/01/2009 03:55:26 PM Comments (0)

Former All Black centre Tana Umaga insisted on Thursday that he wasn't forced into making a shock playing comeback, 18 months after he last appeared on the pitch.

Umaga's failure as a coach to mould a successful Top 14 side at big-spending Toulon this season has led to the hiring of former French winger and Sale coach Philippe Saint-Andre as sporting director for next season.

But Umaga, whose last competitive match was on August 11, 2007, in Wellington, says he is looking forward to resuming his playing career and that club president Mourad Boudjellal had not pushed him into it.

"It's my decision. I want to be able to say that I did everything I could to help this club and this team," said 35-year-old Umaga, who won 74 caps in his eight-year international career.

"I didn't want to look back and think: 'Ah, if only I had'. It took time to come to this decision. I talked it over with my family and close friends.

"Putting on the boots again can make things possible. In life, to get what you want, you have to make sacrifices."

Umaga could return to action in Friday's clash with Mont-de-Marsan, the only team below them in the Top 14, but his decision to return has been clouded by the reasons behind it.

Some reports have even suggested that Boudjellal insisted that Umaga justify his salary at the club.

But Umaga is adamant that the decision was his.

"I repeat - I decided. I'm doing it because I believe it's good for the team. Whatever other people say is their business. It doesn't keep me awake at night," Umaga told the L'Equipe sports daily.

The New Zealander, who is still in charge of the team despite three wins in 15 games, believes he can perform a job both on the pitch and on the sidelines.

"At this moment you need more than words, you have to act."

Umaga also said that the arrival of Saint-Andre can only help him become a better coach in the long term.

"You have to be open. I'm ready to learn a lot from Philippe Saint-Andre when he arrives. It's going to be good for me."

Umaga guided Toulon into the top flight last year but the team are currently second from the bottom of the Top 14 table despite investing huge sums in high-profile players including Jerry Collins, Joe van Niekerk and Sonny Bill Williams.

Saint-Andre, a former France international winger, led Sale to the English championship title in 2006 and the European Challenge Cup crown a year earlier.

He arrived at the English Premiership side in 2004, having previously performed an identical role with Gloucester and in France with Bourgoin.

Saint-Andre won 68 caps for France, 34 of them as captain, and is second in France's all-time try-scorers list with 32, behind Serge Blanco (38).

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