Rugby legend believes English youth rugby’s obsession with size stunts progress of talent

Rugby legend Mike Umaga questions why his son Jacob was artificially bulked up and laments how skill can be treated in the English junior ranks.

“Tricky is a bit of an understatement. It was tough for Jacob and ourselves as parents,” revealed the 13-cap Samoa internationals to The Guardian.

Umaga, who played professional league and union and has been coaching in England for two decades, added: “Jacob was always deemed to be too small. At both Leicester and Wasps they said: ‘He needs to be bigger,’ and tried to put some unnecessary weight on him.

“I’d say to coaches: ‘You can always add some poundage but the body needs to grow naturally as well. If myself and his uncle are anything to go by, he will grow.’

“Before he went to the Under-20 World Cup he was put on a bulking programme. I was dismayed when he left because he wasn’t in any shape to perform at an elite tournament.

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“He was overweight and hadn’t done a lot of conditioning. It was all about putting size on.

“There’s no substitute for skill and pace. Why not have those first and then you can manufacture the muscle? Jacob is only just starting to fill out now, aged 21.

“Everyone’s different. It’s not an exact science but some coaches try to make it one. There are so many factors you need to take into account.”


20 Most Disappointing Players in England History

England’s National team has seen its fair share of great players from Martin Johnson to Joe Launchbury and from Jonny Wilkinson to Owen Farrell.

However, even with all of those talented players there have been the loads of disappointments. All the players that were expected to be great and never were, or even those that were thought to at least be worthy stand-ins but never got a chance.

Beyond that there is still the question as to why some of them were ever called up in the national team at all.

Whatever the cause, all the following players have either been a major disappointment for one reason or another, and a load of them and have made it into this list.


1. Christian Wade

The 2013 British & Irish Lion is poised to sensationally quit Wasps in order to pursue a lucrative career in the NFL, having grown disillusioned with rugby union. The 27-year-old is one of the most recognised names in the domestic game, but his continued absence from the international set-up – having won just one England cap on the 2013 tour of Argentina – has left him frustrated and fed up of continuously being overlooked. What a waste.


2. David Flatman 

The now pundit for ITV, BT Sport and Channel 5 speaks a very good game but his opportunities at international level were not forthcoming. He won his first full caps as a replacement in the Tests against South Africa on the summer tour in 2000 but never really established himself as the first choice, finding himself behind Graham Rowntree in the pecking order. Winning just eight caps between 2000 and 2002, he’d probably walk into Eddie Jones latest squad.


3. Hugh Vyvyan

The Newcastle and Saracens legend, who made 245 Premiership appearances, won a deserved first England cap against Canada in the Investec Challenge match in 2004 and scored a try as captain. However, shockingly, this would be the only full test cap he’d ever win.


4. Dave Walder

The Geordie magician steered the Falcons to cup final glory in 2001 and 2004, the Durham University graduate playing four tests for England between 2001 and 2003. The fly-half made 87 Premiership appearances during his seven seasons at Kingston Park before going on to domestic and European glory with London Wasps. A great player, so it’s disappointing we didn’t see more of him at Test level.


5. Tom Varndell

An England international with four caps to his name, the wing became the Premiership’s all-time leading try-scorer during the 2016/17 campaign when he scored against Harlequins at Ashton Gate. Like Wade, it’s hard to believe he didn’t get more of a chance, scoring three tries in his four test caps.

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