MacDonald joins Umaga for Blues' challenge

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Lynn McConnell     17 May 2018     Getty Images

Umaga said he felt fortunate to have not only the opportunity but also the support of New Zealand Rugby and the Blues board and community.

As things stood at the moment his reappointment was possibly not seen as the most deserving outcome but it was testament to the faith that had been put into him and the structures and systems developed with the longer term in mind.

He was looking forward to working with Macdonald as his lead attack coach, who he had approached when he first took on the Blues job but the timing had not been right for MacDonald.

"We've worked together before, we're aligned in the way we think and I know with the specialties that he brings, his passion, his level of detail and the high standards that he sets for himself as well as those around him, and obviously his track record, I know it's going to be a great improvement in terms of us going forward," he said.

While it would be nice to have an even longer extension to his contract, Umaga said it was a results-driven industry and the results hadn't been what they wanted.

"The challenge that's brought Leon here is the challenge that brought me here and I want to make sure I live up to that challenge. I've got 12 months to show that I have that ability and that I can take the club to where we want it and there's some continuity if that changes," he said.

MacDonald said he was excited by the opportunity presented to him and he saw the Blues were trying to do everything to lift their performance and while it was a massive challenge he was looking forward to getting on with it.

"Everyone can see there is talent in the group, and good young players. I really enjoyed coaching New Zealand Under-20s and working with these younger players was brilliant and there're a lot of these young guys coming through to Super Rugby. I just see a lot of opportunity," he said.

It was a completely different situation from the Crusaders where he spent one season last year and there were different challenges involved but the three-year contract was one he was looking forward to.

MacDonald said it was an encouraging sign that players were signing on for three-year contracts and that revealed their passion.

Having played against the Blues at their peak he knew what the legacy of the side was and what they were attempting to regain. At the same time he had no issues having been both a player and a coach with the Crusaders. It was professional rugby and former Crusaders, Tabai Matson was with the Chiefs and Aaron Mauger and Mark Hammett were with the Highlanders.

"We're motivated people who want to do well. You become passionate for your team, you care for your players deeply and you go on a ride together and I know it won't take long for this to become really comfortable," he said.

Blues chief executive Michael Redman said both New Zealand Rugby and the Blues board felt Umaga still had a contribution to make to the Blues organisation. He retained the confidence and support of the players and it was a case of exhausting all the options with the incumbent leadership before attempting to try something new.

"Having said that, none of us, including Tana, are happy with where we are in terms of on-field performances and that is reflected in the initial one-year term," he said.

Plans were being put in place around Umaga with the ultimate view of him being involved for longer than one more year, although as Redman said, 'the threshold for success is not endless and Tana is aware of that'.

Redman said the Blues first spoke with MacDonald several years ago and in the time since his reputation had grown.

Decisions on the other coaching positions within the Blues were expected to be announced in July.