The Blues and New Zealand Rugby (NZR) have today announced that Tana Umaga will have his role as Head Coach extended by a further 12 months to the end of the 2019 Investec Super Rugby season.
The club and national body also announced that Tasman Mako Head Coach and former Crusaders Assistant Coach, Leon MacDonald will join the Blues in 2019 as Assistant Coach.
The coaching appointments re-unite Umaga and MacDonald who coached the New Zealand Under20 team to win the world rugby championship in 2015.
Blues CEO Michael Redman said while the Board is not satisfied with current performances, it does not believe the answer is to change Head Coach at this time.
“The Board believes there are positive improvements taking place at all levels at the club, and that Tana still has a contribution to make,” said Mr Redman. “Changing Head Coach now would mean we throw out three years of hard-earned experience and starting again which we believe is the wrong thing to do.
“At the same time, the expected shifts in on-field performance are yet to be achieved and we are examining every aspect of team selection, preparation and support as our fans would expect”
“The players support Tana’s plan and we feel we are close to unlocking the true potential of this group. In that respect we are absolutely thrilled to have attracted a coach of Leon’s stature to join the club to help achieve this.
“He has a proven record as a player and as a coach at a high level and we believe his different experiences will help significantly in improved performances from next season.”
NZR Head of Professional Rugby, Chris Lendrum said Umaga and MacDonald offer an exciting management package for the Blues.
“Tana is a highly regarded figure, and we believe in his ability to continue to grow and develop as a coach and leader. We are backing him to do this. Leon is an exciting prospect who will add considerable experience and skill to the Blues club, and we expect the two of them together will form a formidable coaching team next year,” Lendrum said.
MacDonald played 56 tests for the All Blacks and is a centurion for the Crusaders, before he moved into coaching Tasman. He had one-year coaching for the Crusaders in Super Rugby before returning for a two-year appointment as Head Coach of the Mako.
He will see out that contract in this year’s Mitre-10 Cup before moving north for what he believes is an exciting and significant challenge.
“I’m extremely motivated to help with the Blues’ vision of being one of New Zealand’s most successful Super Rugby teams. I have coached with Tana with the New Zealand Under 20 team and I have a great deal of respect for him as a Head Coach,” said MacDonald.
“From what I have seen there is a strong culture and the facilities for players and coaches at the Blues is outstanding.”
Umaga said he is pleased to be reappointed for a further 12 months.
“We are in the results business. Believe me, no-one at the Blues right now is happy with where we are at, but everyone has bought in to our plan, believes in it and works so hard every day to perform.
“There are significant parts of every game where we are achieving that, and just a few basic things that let us down and convert those tight games into positive results.
“While we will now sit down to plan our coaching roster for next year, I am thrilled to have Leon join us. We really gelled together with the successful Under 20s team and he has a fantastic coaching record already. I am sure he is going to bring a lot to this club going forward.”
MacDonald said he has always had strong ties with his home in Marlborough and the Tasman region, and is looking forward to a successful 2018 campaign, while his wife Hayley will continue to manage her business interests in the Tasman region from Auckland.
Video: The 2019 coaching appointment media conference was live streamed on the Blues Facebook page