(Photo: Getty Images)
By Jake Jones
Former Crusaders and All Black fullback Leon MacDonald has been signed as a Blues assistant coach for next season.
“I’m extremely motivated to help with the Blues’ vision of being one of New Zealand’s most successful Super Rugby teams,” MacDonald said.
“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.
“From what I have seen there is a strong culture and the facilities for players and coaches at the Blues is outstanding.”
In addition to MacDonald’s introduction to the coaching staff, Tana Umaga has received a 12-month contract extension.
Blues CEO Michael Redman said while the board is not satisfied with current performances, it does not believe the answer is to change the 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 Redman.
“Changing the 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.”
New Zealand Rugby Union 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,” Lendrum said.
“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.”