Umaga’s the toast of Toulon

Tana Umaga scored on his debut for French Second Division club Toulon.

It took just 23 minutes for the former All Black captain to cross the line and help his side sink Lyon 22-16. An estimated salary of R2,8million means the pressure is on Umaga to shine in his french sojourn.

Attacking opportunities were limited for Umaga as the Toulon pack sought to hold the ball close. He was also on the end of some unwanted attention from a Lyon player who was sin-binned for a high tackle on him in the second half.

Umaga, who was replaced shortly before the final whistle, was full of praise for the Toulon supporters.

“The crowd was amazing and I was very much surprised by all this,” Umaga told the media. “It (the crowd) is very close to the ground.”

“In New-Zealand, there’s more space between the crowd and the players. Here, you can feel the fans, there’s much noise, it is similar to South Africa. I’ve been there for only two days, but it was okay for me, even if I felt a little bit nervous before the game.

“But I think all the backs make it easier for me tonight,” said Umamga, who was made an honorary citizen of Toulon in an elaborate ceremony on Saturday.

Toulon coach Gilbert Doucert said he was pleased with the contribution of the 74-cap All Black.

“Umaga gave pleasure to everybody and with his first touch of the ball he scored,” he said. “He is rather surprised by all the media attention he has received and asked whether he had to sign all the autographs he was asked for.”

Umaga will return to Vodacom Super 14 action with the Wellington Hurricanes at the end of the season.