O’Driscoll meets Umaga years after spear tackle
TOULON, France: It has taken 1 518 days, 50 and a half months and just 24 hours short of 217 weeks. But it has finally happened. Brian O’Driscoll has met Tana Umaga for the first time since the New Zealander’s fateful tackle that ended the Irishman’s Test series as captain of the 2005 British & Irish Lions, after just 60 seconds of the first Test.
The meeting did not take place in a rugby citadel such as Eden Park, Auckland, the ANZ stadium Sydney or the Millennium stadium, Cardiff.
Instead, it was on a training ground at Nice rugby club where two greats of the game finally came face to face once more.
While Leinster were training, a very familiar face appeared on the touchline.
For the first time since that night at Christchurch four years ago, O’Driscoll and Umaga shook hands. There was no drama, no histrionics, no petulance; just the usual kind of light-hearted conversation rugby men indulge in the world over when they get together.
Umaga is the backs coach at French Top 14 club Toulon, but had gone to Nice to meet up with some friends. “I have friends over there and one of them at the rugby club just said, come down to the ground,” explained the Kiwi.
“I had no idea Brian was going to be there. “When we got down there, my friend said I’ve got someone for you to meet. I was a bit reluctant because I saw the Leinster boys there and didn't want to be a nuisance, he said.
“But when I got there, Brian came up and we just started chatting. It was good to catch up; we literally hadn’t seen each other since that first Test against the Lions in Christchurch. I enjoyed chatting with him and seeing how he was.
“We joked about the sun and the heat beside the Mediterranean when he said Ireland was having its wettest summer for about 40 years.”
Was it uncomfortable in any sense for the New Zealander being there? Did he feel ill at ease because of past memories? Did they discuss the joint spear effort in which Umaga and Keven Mealamu were involved and which wrecked O’Driscoll’s shoulder.
Umaga, who has mellowed and matured hugely as a man since moving with his family to a new life in France, smiled.
He said: “Not at all, not in any way. It wasn’t uncomfortable chatting with Brian at all. It was good to have a chat about how things are going for both of us. We didn’t mention 2005 and the Lions tour; it is a long, long time ago.” So there wasn’t any apology on Umaga’s part? “There was no mention of that. We just chatted about rugby today and our lives,” he said.
“These things happen in rugby and obviously they affect you at the time. But it’s not the last thing that happens in your career, you move on. I just enjoyed the chat with him.” – Belfast Telegraph
BUDDIES: In spite of the 2005 spear tackle incident there are no hard feelings between Brian O’Driscoll and Tana Umaga
Television footage of the infamous spear tackle