First Moana Pasifika squad 'the start of something bigger', Tana Umaga says

Former All Blacks captain Fa'alogo Tana Umaga hopes his naming of the first squad of players for the Moana Pasifika franchise this morning is the beginning of something special for Pacific rugby.

Your playlist will load after this ad

The All Blacks legend is coaching the squad, which contains players from Samoa, Tonga and Fiji who play both in New Zealand and abroad. Source: Breakfast

Umaga appeared on TVNZ1's Breakfast this morning to reveal the team which boasts plenty of Super Rugby stars, including one-Test All Black Josh Ioane, for their historic match with the Māori All Blacks.

After the squad was revealed, Umaga said today's naming was a celebratory moment for Pacific rugby with the franchise set to join Super Rugby in 2022.

The former midfielder isn't getting ahead of himself, though.

"We're very excited about [next month's match] and what could come after," Umaga said.

"At this stage, it really is about this one-off game but it's something that I know means a lot to a lot of people, especially our young players and our players coming through; when I reached out to them and asked them if they're interested... everyone was straight in.

"This is, hopefully, the start of something bigger."

Umaga added having a pathway through to a Pasifika team in a professional environment would be great but there also needs to be understanding that those wanting to see Pacific rugby blossom have to make sure there is a strong foundation in place.

"In my eyes, there has to be a development programme - something that's robust enough that they can actually get opportunities to develop their rugby players.

"It's tough with the resources that they have financially. You've got good people doing it for the right reasons but without enough financial backing to really promote these young people.

"Guys are just doing it off their backs."

Currently, there are no professional teams in the Pacific for players to be part of which has led many to take deals overseas in places like New Zealand, Australia, Europe and North America, to make a living for their families.

Umaga said it's a story that has become far too common.

"I've been all over the world playing rugby, coaching rugby and it's funny - you'll go to the smallest corners in France, in Asia and you'll find Pacific Islanders playing there and you'll wonder how they got there," Umaga said.

"They've integrated into those communities and a lot of them will stay there because it's good for there families but a lot of them are still transferring money to provide for their families back in the islands.

"They're in every nook and cranny - 600 [players] are the ones we know about but there's others plying their trade."

Next month's match is on December 5 in Hamilton.