“Leave it alone, mate!” A frowning Sonny Bill Williams interjected in the Blues media conference to shut down questions to Blues coach and former All Black captain Tana Umaga about his memories of ‘that’ famous tip-tackle on Brian O’Driscoll which ended his Lions tour in 2005.
Umaga and SBW were fronting the media as the head coach named a strong Blues side to face the Lions on Wednesday. Umaga himself was expecting the subject to be brought up and initially was pleasantly surprised when the first question was an innocuous one, asking him for his feeling about the previous tour and his predictions for the present one.
“I knew we were going to talk about 2005, but that wasn’t the question I was expecting,” Umaga replied after pausing briefly. “Thank you for that.
“Look, back then as a player and in the mindset of these [Blues] players here, it’s very special to be part of a team to play against the British and Irish Lions. We had success back then but that was back then. It’s a different group now and it’s all about the 2017 Blues squad that’s going up against them.”
That seemed to open the door for reporters to once again bring up Umaga and Kevin Mealamu’s notorious tip-tackle on O’Driscoll, an incident which still provokes bitterness among some Irish and Lions fans. Umaga answered decisively that it was time to focus on the deeds of the new generation of Lions.
“It’s not about that time, that’s 12 years ago so if people haven’t put it behind them then they never will,” said Umaga.
“It’s about this group now and their time against the Lions and the memories they make, which are hopefully positive ones and we move on from there.”
However, this was not enough for the press present as Umaga was subsequently asked to recollect his memories of the aftermath of the incident.
Thankfully for Umaga, All Blacks and Blues centre Williams decided enough was enough and put a definite stop to the questioning. Umaga then gave his own response:
“That’ll be a no.”
The Blues’ media officer then announced that time was up and a visibly frustrated Williams left the table, shaking his head.
In the more important news of the day, Umaga named a strong Blues side including Sonny Bill Williams and eight other capped All Blacks for Wednesday’s game at Eden Park. William’s has been under an injury cloud and will have to prove that he has recovered from training without discomfort to his knee.
Should Williams be unavailable, his place will go to TJ Faiane, with Melani Nanai being promoted to the bench.
The Blues side is:
Michael Collins, Matt Duffie, George Moala, Sonny Bill Williams/ TJ Faiane, Rieko Ioane, Stephen Perofeta, Augustine Pulu, Steve Luatua, Blake Gibson, Akira Ioane, Scott Scrafton, Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, Charlie Faumuina, James Parsons, Ofa Tu’ungafasi.
Reserves: Hame Faiva, Alex Hodgman, Sione Mafileo, Patrick Tuipulotu, Kara Pryor, Sam Nock, Ihaia West, TJ Faiane/Melani Nanai.
Kaal Kaczmarek, Pundit Arena
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