'Mate, just leave it alone' - Tana Umaga shuts down talk of infamous spear tackle on Brian O'Driscoll
Tana Umaga polished off his side-step this morning as he revealed his Blues team to face the Lions.
Inevitably, the topic of 2005 and the former All Black captain’s role in Brian O’Driscoll’s series ending injury was revisited but Umaga gave journalists the short shrift and his star man Sonny Bill Williams also intervened to keep the controversy off limits.
Umaga and hooker Keven Mealamu tipped the then Lions skipper over in the infamous ‘spear-gate’ incident and neither were ever punished for their actions.
The moment cast a shadow over the All Blacks' sensational 3-0 series 'Black-wash' but twelve years on, on the tourists’ first return to the Land of the Long White Cloud the Auckland-based coach is keen to move on.
“It’s not about that time, that’s 12 years ago so if people haven’t put it behind them, then they never will,” he said.
“It’s about this group now and their time against the Lions and the memories they make which are hopefully positive ones and we move on from there.
“Back then as a player the mindset was something very special to be a part of it., to play against the British and Irish Lions.
“We had good success back then but that was back then. It’s a different group now. It’s all about 2017 Blues squad that is going to go up against them and we are just looking forward to making sure that it is all about these guys and what they need to do and focus on what we need to do to try and get a successful result against a very good squad that has come over from Europe.”
Later, an attempt was made to return to the topic but superstar centre Williams intervened.
“Mate, let’s just leave it alone. It’s 12 years ago,” he said.
Williams is named in Umaga’s team, but is a doubt for the game with a knee injury.
He’s confident of playing, however, and if he does he’ll be one of five All Blacks in a formidable line-up.
"We have got a whole squad of players that want to play in this game,” Umaga said.
“It’s a special moment in a player’s career. To only have 23 was very difficult but it is what it is. We took a view of being able to risk some players. We took a squad to Apia (to play the Reds last weekend) that we thought could win the game and we got that result and now we have asked this group to do the same.
“They have got to following on from the good work in Apia and show the faith that has been put in this 23 on Wednesday to back up what we did in Samoa.”
Blues team to face the Lions on Wednesday:
15 – Michael Collins
14 – Matt Duffie
13 – George Moala
12 – Sonny Bill Williams/TJ Faiane
11 – Rieko Ioane
10 – Stephen Perofeta
9 – Augustine Perofeta
1 – Ofa Tu-ungafasi
2 – James Parsons (capt)
3 – Chalie Faumuina
4 -- Gerard Cowley-Tuioti
5 – Scott Scrafton
6 – Akira Ioane
7 – Blake Gibson
8 – Steven Luatua
Replacements: Hame Faiva, Alex Hodgman, Sione Mafileo, Patrick Tuipulotu, Kara Pryor, Sam Nock, Ihaia West, TJ Faiene/Melani Nanai.