No panic for boss de­spite a tenth loss in 11 games

Coventry Telegraph - - RUGBY UNION - By PAUL SMITH Rugby Re­porter paul.smith01@trin­i­tymir­ Ja­cob Umaga Ja­cob’s dad Mike, left, and un­cle Tana

BROAD­STREET boss Paul Hurst re­mains con­fi­dent that his team have the abil­ity to stay in Na­tional Two South de­spite suf­fer­ing their tenth de­feat in 11 out­ings at Wor­thing on Satur­day.

Their 42-14 re­v­erse leaves only win­less Wim­ble­don and Old Red­clif­fi­ans, both of whom face new­lypro­moted ‘Street dur­ing the next three weeks, be­low the Ivor Preece Field club.

Three sides will be rel­e­gated at the end of the sea­son, and a 14-point gap cur­rently sep­a­rates Hurst’s team from safety, but with the sea­son’s mid­point still a month away, the head coach in­sists there is no need for panic.

“I am still con­fi­dent we can main­tain our level four league sta­tus,” he says.

“It is re­ally im­por­tant in­ter­nally that every­one at the club, in­clud­ing the play­ers, be­lieves this is where we should be play­ing our rugby.

“The step from Na­tional Three is huge, and we have a young squad, but we have to keep work­ing hard and fo­cus on the cru­cial games com­ing up.

“We were 100 per cent bet­ter at Wor­thing than the week be­fore against Ton­bridge. We started well and played in the right ar­eas, but once again ba­sic er­rors cost us.

“We didn’t make Wor­thing work hard enough for their scores, and that is a con­cern.

“We won’t use it as an ex­cuse, but we missed Andy Mur­ray and Jeff Greg­son, and our Wasps academy con­tin­gent were in­volved with the Anglo-Welsh Cup.”

Sec­ond row Jack Lake’s try gave Wor­thing an early lead, and the hosts soon ex­tended their ad­van­tage through right winger Sam Hamp­son.

And al­though flanker Chris Ide­han got ‘Street on the board, Hamp­son’s sec­ond score gave the hosts a com­fort­able half-time ad­van­tage.

Nick Thatcher’s lat­est score of a pro­lific sea­son only can­celled out Jack Maslen’s bonus point try, and time re­mained for the hosts to add fur­ther five-point­ers through cen­tre Jack For­rest and re­place­ment Will Gear­ing,

Home fly half Matt Mclean added 12 points through three con­ver­sions and two penal­ties, while Cliffie Hodg­son added two con­ver­sions for ‘Street.

Hurst has taken en­cour­age­ment from the num­ber of his younger play­ers who have now gained ex­pe­ri­ence in ei­ther the Pre­mier­ship A League or Anglo-Welsh Cup ac­tion with Wasps.

Back Josh Grimes joined Josh Nott, James Adams and James More­ton plus ex­pe­ri­enced scrum half Nick Thatcher on this list when he ap­peared in black-and-gold from the bench against the Ospreys on Fri­day night.

“It’s good that our young lads are be­ing no­ticed by Wasps,” he says, “and can only help our longer-term re­la­tion­ship.” UN­BE­LIEV­ABLY, the third an­niver­sary of Wasps’ move to Coven­try is al­ready al­most upon us.

Fit­tingly, Coven­try kid Andy Goode’s record-break­ing 33 points sparked the black-and-golds to a 48-16 win over London Ir­ish in front of 28,254 cu­ri­ous fans on that chilly De­cem­ber Ri­coh Arena Sun­day.

At that point, the King Henry VIII old boy and avid Sky Blues fan rep­re­sented the club’s only lo­cal con­nec­tion.

Since then, Pre­mier­ship Rugby’s academy ar­eas have been ad­justed, and Wasps have added for­mer Wood­lands pupil TJ Har­ris and Ke­nil­worth School prod­uct Ja­cob Umaga to their play­ing strength.

And doubt­less in years to come, this pair of hope­fuls will be seen as the first of many Coven­try and War­wick­shire prod­ucts who make the tran­si­tion from lo­cal ju­nior clubs to the top flight.

Umaga is of course an in­stantly recog­nis­able name in rugby cir­cles, courtesy of Ja­cob’s un­cle Tana, who is one of the All Blacks’ most re­spected cap­tains.

The young Wasps cen­tre also has strong Samoan con­nec­tions, through fa­ther Mike, who won 13 caps for the coun­try of his par­ents’ birth, and with York­shire through his rugby league coach­ing Mum, Michelle.

But de­spite this, most rugby fol­low­ers would prob­a­bly iden­tify the Umaga fam­ily most read­ily with the Mid­lands.

Mike coached at Coven­try, Nuneaton, Stour­bridge, Coven­try and Birm­ing­ham Uni­ver­si­ties, while Ja­cob has en­joyed loan spells at Hinck­ley and Broad­street in the last two sea­sons af­ter opt­ing for Wasps’ se­nior academy fol­low­ing his time in Le­ices­ter’s ju­nior set-up.

But it is Ke­nil­worth RFC, where Mike played and coached, that is Umaga se­nior and ju­nior’s only shared play­ing con­nec­tion, as Ja­cob re­counts.

“I started in un­der-sev­ens at Ke­nil­worth and played right up to Un­der 16s, and also played in Ke­nil­worth School’s team in the Daily Mail Cup,” he said.

“I wasn’t forced to play rugby, but grow­ing up I spent a lot of time fol­low­ing my dad around when he was at lo­cal Na­tional League clubs.

“My mum coached rugby as well, so in the sum­mer I played rugby league with her. I used to sup­port Brad­ford but they went down-hill a cou­ple of years ago and haven’t watched it since.”

A promis­ing teenage cen­tre liv­ing in Ke­nil­worth would now soon be on Wasps’ radar, but prior to the re­cent re­or­gan­i­sa­tion Umaga should have found his way to Worcester rather than Le­ices­ter. So what hap­pened? “I had a trial for Worcester when I was 14, but after­wards their email got lost so I never heard any­thing,” Umaga ex­plained. “My dad knew some­one at Le­ices­ter who said ‘bring him down for a train­ing ses­sion.’ I had three and kept go­ing from there. “I en­joyed my time there, it was a good place to be but with Wasps be­ing so close to home, it was a good op­por­tu­nity and I thought I’d try some­thing new. I trained with the first team for a week when they were a bit short on fly-halves and stood be­hind Fred­die Burns for a cou­ple of ses­sions but that was as close as I got. The academy had some traits of the se­nior squad and the in­ten­sity was def­i­nitely there.”

As the likes of Liam Botham, Josh Beau­mont, Nigel Clough and Dan Skel­ton have found, fol­low­ing in the foot­steps of a sport­ing leg­end can be far from easy. How­ever, Umaga ju­nior seems far from phased by his rugby her­itage, and in­stead rel­ishes the prac­ti­cal ben­e­fits brought by hav­ing two in­ter­na­tional cen­tres in his fam­ily tree.

“When I was younger, I watched quite a lot of my un­cle play­ing,” he said.

“But I never re­ally got to see my dad play when he was in his prime. I heard he was a phys­i­cal guy, but I never re­ally got to see him play which is a shame be­cause I’ve heard so many good things about him.

“I’m a dif­fer­ent player to both of them. They were quick, phys­i­cal play­ers whereas I class my­self as more of a ball-player – I am just Ja­cob at the end of the day, and I can only do what I can do.

“My dad’s al­ways there; he’s the first to speak up if some­thing goes wrong and keeps a watch­ful eye to make sure I’m do­ing stuff we’ve talked about.”

Dai Young has at times con­fessed to not be­ing 100 per cent sure in which po­si­tion Ja­cob will even­tu­ally make his name. This sea­son’s A League and Anglo-Welsh Cup se­lec­tions sug­gest that inside cen­tre rather than fly half or full back are his most likely des­ti­na­tion, but Umaga is happy to take what­ever chances arise.

“I en­joy play­ing any­where, and think of my­self as a util­ity back,” he said.

“I played full back last year in the Anglo-Welsh Cup, for Hinck­ley I played at No.13 and I’ve played fly half in the A League.

“In train­ing I try and mix it up so I get a bit of knowl­edge from ev­ery

I’m a dif­fer­ent player to both of them. They were quick, phys­i­cal play­ers whereas I class my­self as more of a ball-player.

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