Dual code rugby legend Va'aiga Tuigamala dead at 52
NEWS: Va’aiga Tuigamala, affectionately known as ‘Inga the winger’ to fans of both Rugby Union and Rugby League, has died at the age of 52, his former club Wigan announced Thursday.
Tuigamala, who played for the All Blacks and also represented Samoa in both codes, was a member of the Wigan team that dominated English domestic Rugby League in the early 1990s.
In a Twitter post, the northwest club said: “Wigan Warriors are deeply saddened to learn of the tragic news that former player Va’aiga [Inga] Tuigamala has passed away.
“Wigan Warriors send their deepest condolences to the family and friends at this awful time.”
Tuigamala, capped 19 times by New Zealand, played for the All Blacks at the 1991 World Cup before switching to represent his native Samoa in the 1995 Rugby League and 1999 union World Cups.
He also won 23 union and two league caps for Samoa.
With Rugby Union then still an amateur sport, Tuigamala joined the paid ranks by moving to league upon his arrival in the United Kingdom from New Zealand in 1993.
In five seasons at Wigan, he scored 62 tries in 102 appearances.
He also helped Wigan win three league titles and two Challenge Cups as well as playing in the team that beat Australia’s Brisbane Broncos in the World Club Challenge.
With Rugby Union turning professional, Tuigamala reverted to the XV-a-side code in 1996 by joining Wasps.
He helped the then London club become champions of England before, following a reported £1 million move, starring for Newcastle in the northeast side’s 1997-98 title-winning campaign.
Jason Robinson, a fellow former dual code international and Wigan player, paid tribute to Tuigamala by tweeting: “Absolutely heartbroken! I owe so much to this amazing man!
“Literally helped change my life when he came to @WiganWarriorsRL from NZ,” added Robinson, a member of the England team that won the 2003 union World Cup.
“Sending all my love and condolences to the family at such a sad time. RIP brother.”