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Sonny Bill Williams helps Tana Umaga shut down talk of '05 BOD incident

‘If people haven’t put it behind them then they never will,’ said the Blues head coach.

Murray Kinsella reports from Auckland

WITH TANA UMAGA sitting at the top table of a press conference in New Zealand ahead of a match against the Lions, it was always going to come up.

The former All Blacks centre is now head coach of the Blues, who have named an impressive team to face Warren Gatland’s Lions on Wednesday in Auckland, but an incident from 12 years ago remains a talking point.

Tana Umaga Umaga is head coach of the Blues. Source: Photosport/Brendon Ratnayake/INPHO

Many will despair at hearing mention of Umaga and Keven Mealamu’s dangerous clearout on Brian O’Driscoll, and you can be certain that the man himself was not looking forward to hearing about it once again.

The line of questioning had even been anticipated in yesterday’s New Zealand Herald, the Kiwi newspaper pre-emptively calling for the bitterness about the BOD incident to finally end.

When the word “2005″ was uttered early in the Blues’ team naming press conference on Monday afternoon at Alexandra Park, Umaga’s eyebrows shot up but the query was along the lines of what that series had meant to him and what the Lions should anticipate this time around.

“I knew we were going to talk about 2005, but that wasn’t the question I was expecting,” said Umaga after a brief pause. “Thank you for that.

“Look, back then as a player and in the mindset of these [Blues] players here, it’s very special to be part of a team to play against the British and Irish Lions. We had success back then but that was back then.

An injured Brian O'Driscoll O'Driscoll's Test series was ended in 2005. Source: Hannah Johnston

“It’s a different group now and it’s all about the 2017 Blues squad that’s going up against them.”

Well, Umaga wasn’t going to be let off the hook just yet and the Blues boss was asked how he feels about the fact that the infamous incident involving O’Driscoll – when his shoulder was dislocated, ending his tour in the opening minute of the first Test – still provokes strong feelings in Ireland and Britain.

It’s not about that time, that’s 12 years ago so if people haven’t put it behind them then they never will,” said Umaga.

“It’s about this group now and their time against the Lions and the memories they make, which are hopefully positive ones and we move on from there.”

That seemed to put the matter to bed for the time being, but Umaga was asked one more time to recall his memories of the fall-out that week and how it had unfolded.

Tana Umaga comes under criticism Umaga faced an angry reaction in 2005. Source: INPHO

Sitting alongside Umaga at the top table was All Blacks and Blues centre Sonny Bill Williams and the superstar midfielder interjected to shut down the questioning.

“Mate, let’s just leave it alone, mate,” said Williams with a frown on his face.

Umaga followed up…

“That’ll be a no.”

With the press conference brought to a close by the Blues’ media officer, Williams rose from the table and, shaking his head, muttered “12 years!” under his breath.

Probably time to put this one to bed for good.

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Murray Kinsella

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