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Huge opportunity for young prodigy

BY Jack Tunney  ·  Friday May 13, 2022

It’s not been the easiest couple of years for young Jacob Umaga.

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The 23-year-old had a blinding 2019/2020 season with Wasps, guiding them all the way to the Gallagher premiership final. These performances gave Umaga the chance to team up with the England national side in that summer’s training camp.

Since then however, Umaga has seen himself eclipsed by other young players, such as Marcus Smith for England and Charlie Atkinson being preferred in the ten shirt for Wasps.

 

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A post shared by Marcus Smith (@marcusmith10)

This was partially down to the torrid run of form Umaga had post-England camp. His confidence seemed to be shaken, his decision-making all over the shop, and mistakes coming thick and fast.

The fortunate thing about being such a young player with huge talent is however, fortunes can quickly change.

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For 23-year-old Umaga, it’s not been an overnight transition, but a transition nonetheless. Experienced playmaker Jimmy Goperth was given the reins again at fly-half for a time, and then 20-year-old Atkinson was brought through as an emerging talent.

This allowed Umaga to work on his skill sets without the added pressure that fly-half brings.

Known to possess electric pace and the ability to read a game like very few others, Umaga has started to regain his confidence.

 

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A post shared by QB1 (@jacobumaga)

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He has since transitioned into an all-court player. Often using those skills at full-back, but also showing up in the centres in his only England appearance to date.

With comebacks, do come setbacks, and a couple of red cards for high tackles in consecutive games did not help his case. This being said however, in a recent interview with RugbyPass, Wasps head coach Lee Blackett had the following to say:

“Like anyone Jacob just wants to play, so he was frustrated.

“He did a lot of work on his technique trying to make sure he doesn’t make the same mistake. I saw something with Shaun Edwards the other day where he said about the players, it’s that split last-second decision and it is the difference between a red card and a good tackle now. He got a couple wrong, didn’t he, and as a result spent a fair amount of time on the sideline, but I have been happy with him coming back at 15. It gives us another pivot in the backline, a decision-maker, so I have been really pleased where he has come back and how he has come back.”

Having been used as a substitute in last week’s clash with Edinburgh, Umaga faces up against Lyon in the Challenge Cup Semi-Final this weekend.

 

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A post shared by Wasps Rugby (@waspsrugby)

Starting at full-back, this is a huge opportunity for Umaga to show what he can do on the European stage.

With one eye on this summer’s tour to Australia, a couple of quality performances could genuinely put him back in Eddie Jones’ sights.

An exciting player to watch, this could very well be the springboard his career needs to reach the next level.

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