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Ex-Highlanders coach Aaron Mauger joins forces with Tana Umaga at Moana Pasifika
02:28 am GMT+12, 17/11/2020, New Zealand

The former All Blacks midfield partnership of Aaron Mauger and Tana Umaga will be reunited in the coaching box when the Moana Pasifika side plays NZ Māori in Hamilton on 05 December.
 
New Zealand Rugby announced last week that Umaga would coach Moana Pasifika and Stuff can confirm Mauger will join him, representing a quick return to the spotlight for the 39-year-old after the Highlanders replaced him with Tony Brown as head coach.
 
Mauger spent three years at the Highlanders and was keen to secure a contract extension, but the side from the Deep South moved Brown into the job and are currently searching for a defence coach.
 
Despite that decision, Mauger has remained in Dunedin and it's understood he is in no immediate rush to leave the city as he weighs up his coaching options.
 
 The Moana Pasifika game against NZ Māori will help Mauger move on from the disappointment of the Highlanders exit and could potentially point to a role with the side in the longer term.
 
NZ Rugby has confirmed that Moana Pasifika and the Fiji Rugby Union are its “preferred partners” as it eyes adding two teams to what could be a 12-team Super Rugby competition in 2022.
 
“NZ Rugby has been consistent in its desire to include a Pasifika team in future professional rugby competitions and we are thrilled to be taking these next steps with Fiji and Moana Pasifika,” said Chris Lendrum, NZ Rugby’s general manager professional rugby and performance.  
 
 "We are now focused on working with these organisations, the relevant national unions and other partners on the optimal models for the establishment of new teams - to ensure they have every chance of success.
 
”There is a lot of work to do for both parties but we are excited by the potential to continue explorations together."
 
The eventual makeup of the Moana Pasifika coaching team will be closely watched if and when they are included in the Super Rugby 2022 competition.
 
Blues defence coach Umaga signed a one-year extension this year, meaning he could be available for Moana Pasifika in 2022, while Alama Ieremia and Filo Tiatia have enhanced their reputations at Auckland.
 
Former Chiefs coach Tabai Matson, who is currently working as an analyst for Sky, could also put his hand up.
 
The Moana Pasifika coaches are due to meet this week and map out their strategy for NZ Māori clash, and there will be strong interest in what sort of squad they can put together.
 
 Warriors such as Tonga loose forward Nasi Manu, who has been in great form for Otago, may be in the coaches’ sights, while there are plenty of New Zealand-born players of Pacific Islands heritage who could come into the reckoning.
 
NZ Rugby is expected to confirm the structure of the 2022 season shortly, and the NZ Māori game will be an important step for the Moana Pasifika franchise.
 
Moana Pasifika are likely to be based in south Auckland, although Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan told The Rugby Ruckus podcast on Monday that he would like to base a Pacific Islands team in western Sydney.
 
Bay of Plenty and incoming Chiefs coach Clayton McMillan will again take charge of NZ Māori.

SOURCE: STUFF NZ/PACNEWS


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