Former All Black Va’aiga Tuigamala dies

Popularly known as Inga the Winger, Tuigamala was a fan favourite with his barrel chest and ability to bump off opponents in the late 80s and early 90s.

All Blacks winger Va’inga Tuigamala against a World XV in 1992 Photo: PHOTOSPORT

After playing 19 tests for the All Blacks, he switched to playing rugby league in the UK and France.

He was also a mentor and adviser to boxer David Tua.

He was first noticed at Kelston Boys’ High School, as a big, fast and exceptionally agile three-quarter.

He made the New Zealand schools side in 1986 and 1987. Five of the latter backline would be All Blacks within four years and Tuigamala was clearly one destined for higher honours.

His first-class debut was in 1988, for Auckland B against New South Wales Country.

He made his All Blacks debut as a 20 year old in 1989 and played his first Test against the USA in 1991.

Tuigamala played 19 Tests and scored nine tries for the All Blacks.

His last game was against the Barbarians in Cardiff in 1993 and made the switch to League straight after.

He made 102 appearances for the English League giants Wigan between 1993 and 1997, winning three league titles, two Challenge Cups, a Premiership and World Club Challenge.

Tuigamala returned to the 15-man code and won the Premiership with Newcastle, also playing 23 times for Samoa.

“He was one of the most exciting rugby players to play either code,” Wigan executive director Kris Radlinski said.

“His presence on the rugby field was huge. As a teenager, he gave me the most precious thing that anyone could, time.

“We would spend hours on the field doing one-on-ones together. It is a very sad day for the club. Rest in peace, my friend.”

Wigan say they will hold a minute’s silence before their Super League fixture against Huddersfield Giants on Thursday.

-RNZ/All Blacks/BBC

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