Opinion: There's something about Tana - how Umaga is taking the Blues back to the top

Super Rugby 2017 may barely be a week old, but Tana Umaga looks to have turned a corner with a Blues side that's underachieved for more than a decade.

The Blues coach raised a few eyebrows, leaving the likes of George Moala and Rene Ranger on the bench for his side’s clash with the Rebels. Source: 1 NEWS

The 56-18 demolition of the Rebels to get the season underway showed that the former All Blacks captain has started to mould this Blues side in his own image - something that fans of New Zealand rugby in general should be celebrating.

It may be just one game of what will no doubt be another roller-coaster season, but already fans and commentators alike can see a change to the Blues side of the last few years.

The fact that his side went away to Melbourne - where they had never won before - and perform with such class in just about every aspect of play was nothing short of breathtaking.

The fact he did so with All Blacks like Charlie Faumuina, Rene Ranger and George Moala starting on the bench with Jerome Kaino and Sonny Bill Williams not even in the squad even more so.

The Blues coach spoke about the need for current and former players to speak up after the passing of Dan Vickerman. Source: 1 NEWS

Umaga is starting to make strides where his predecessors have fallen short.

With all due respect to Sir John Kirwan, his time in charge of the Auckland outfit can be deemed nothing short of underwhelming.

Kirwan's tenure as Blues coach left many in Auckland circles surprised, a legend of New Zealand rugby unable to replicate his immense successes as a player on the coaching front was a sight no one wanted to see.

With Umaga at the helm however, something appears to be different.

It's obvious that the current group of players idolise Tana Umaga, most of them are young enough to have watched him play for so many years as an All Black, while many of the senior players in the side were lucky enough to have played with him on some level.

Sadly, the same can't be said for Sir John Kirwan, with several of this current Blues side not even born during his days as a free-scoring All Blacks winger.

The Blues will take Super Rugby to the Pacific nation when they play in Apia in June. Source: 1 NEWS

Umaga looked to be able to get so much more out of youngsters like Blake Gibson, Matt Duffie and both Akira and Rieko Ioane in his first season in charge, with that core of players starting to repay his faith in 2017.

Simply put, this Blues side are playing as a unit, for each other, and for their coach - something that Aucklanders have been lacking since the last time they won a title in 2003.

It would be foolish to suggest that they're nailed on title favourites after just one match, especially playing in the strongest rugby conference to have ever existed, but it looks like for the first time in a long time Auckland rugby fans could have something to smile about, and Tana Umaga is the man responsible.