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Last Updated: Tuesday, 10 January 2006, 01:49 GMT
Umaga quits international rugby
Tana Umaga (L) with New Zealand coach Graham Henry after announcing his retirement
All Blacks captain Tana Umaga has retired from international rugby to spend more time with his family.

The 32-year-old, who played 74 times for the All Blacks, will continue to play for the Hurricanes and Wellington in Super 14 and provincial rugby.

Umaga said: "It has been a tough decision but I think the time is right for me, my family and for the team."

Umaga played a major part in the All Blacks' domination of world rugby over the last 12 months.

In an unprecedented year for New Zealand they swept to a 3-0 series win over the British and Irish Lions, won the Tri-Nations, the Bledisloe Cup and completed the Grand Slam against Wales, Ireland, England and Scotland.

"I sacrificed a lot of the time with my family to wear the black jersey and I did that willingly and always wanted to do it," Umaga added.

"But now I believe it's time for me to sacrifice something and give back to my family.

His record will be remembered along with the very best All Blacks' captains
Graham Henry,
New Zealand head coach

"Being appointed captain of the All Blacks was a huge honour.

"A lot of the work we have been doing is around preparing the All Blacks for the future and I feel privileged to have played a part in that."

New Zealand head coach Graham Henry paid tribute to Umaga's enormous contribution to the All Blacks.

Henry said: "This day is a special day. This is when one of the great All Blacks is retiring from the game.

"Tana's legacy is immense - he has led the All Blacks with distinction and to great success, while making a major contribution to the development of All Blacks rugby and what it means to be an All Black.

"It is fitting that his record will be remembered along with the very best All Blacks' captains.

"It's a reflection of Tana's strength as a person and development as a person that he's got his priorities right.

"He was great as a player, he was very brave, led from the front, a fine defender, a huge determination to win."

Umaga, the first All Blacks captain of Pacific Islands heritage, won the last of his 74 caps in the 29-10 victory over Scotland in November at Murrayfield.

He captained the All Blacks 21 times and made his international debut against Fiji in 1997 as a winger, but was later moved to the centre.

He played in two Rugby World Cups, in 1999 and 2003, and won a fair play award from the International Olympic Committee when he came to the aid of Welsh captain Colin Charvis, who was knocked unconscious in a match in 2003.

However Umaga's reputation suffered a blow last summer after his 'spear' tackle on Ireland skipper Brian O'Driscoll in the first Test against the Lions.

O'Driscoll was left with a dislocated shoulder after receiving the heavy tackle from Umaga and New Zealand hooker Keven Mealamu.

Flanker Richie McCaw, previously Umaga's vice-captain, is expected to take over the captaincy.




SEE ALSO
Umaga's career in photos
10 Jan 06 |  Photo Galleries


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