England's future playmaker prefers to be known by his first name. "I am just Jacob," he says. That's because his surname carries with it a formidable expectation - Umaga.

Wasps' 18-year-old prodigy was born in Harrogate but his family have a far-away rugby pedigree. His uncle Tana captained the All Blacks when they thrashed the Lions 3-0 on their last visit to New Zealand, and his father Mike represented Samoa before relocating the family to this country, the Daily Mail reported.

Now, Jacob is forging his own path towards Test recognition. He played in England Under 20s' recent Six Nations victories over France, Wales and Italy - starting the last two at No 10 - and scored three tries for Wasps in the Anglo-Welsh Cup this season.

He has grown up being known as the son and nephew of established figures but now he is making a name for himself.


"A few people put more pressure on me because of the name," Umaga told Sportsmail.

"For me, I am just Jacob, I don't really use my second name. People think, 'He's Tana's nephew, he is going to be this or that'. My uncle was a great player so there is a lot of pressure.

"If I can just be myself that is the best way to go about it. That last Lions tour is the best memory I have of him, but probably not the Brian O'Driscoll thing (the controversial "spear tackle" by Umaga and Keven Mealamu)!

"I didn't really get to watch him play because we didn't have the TV channels back then. Now I have moved to centre a little bit I can look on YouTube at how he played and how my dad played to pick up tips from them."

This is an English lad who is proud of his distant heritage. The dreadlocks provide a visible link to family connections in New Zealand and the Pacific. Jacob also actively seeks to expand his knowledge of Polynesian culture.

"I was born here but I have that background," he said. "A proud part of me is that Pacific Island culture. There is a lot of respect in the family, making sure you are helping out and looking after your brothers and sisters. Any chance I get to speak to any Islanders I try to learn about that culture."

In time, Jacob would like to illustrate his heritage with traditional tattoos. "I wouldn't mind getting a 'sleeve'," he said.

"I know some people get tattoos because they look cool, but I like finding out the meanings behind them.

Jacob Umaga kicks a goal playing in the U20s Six Nations for England against Italy. Photo / Getty Images
Jacob Umaga kicks a goal playing in the U20s Six Nations for England against Italy. Photo / Getty Images

"Freddie Tuilagi got one from here to here (length of the arm). He went back to Samoa and had it done the traditional way (using whale-bone). It looked excruciating. I would probably start with a forearm band, to see if I could cope with the pain, then add more. I would want to do it the traditional way."

Umaga's background is revealed in his allegiances too. Growing up, he didn't support a rugby union team, but as someone who played both codes, he was a fan of Bradford Bulls in league - in an era when they had the Polynesian clout of Lesley Vainikolo, Tevita Vaikona and Shontayne Hape.

His union idols are Kiwis like Dan Carter and Carlos Spencer. He will prepare for games by watching YouTube clips of Jerry Collins' big hits or Benji Marshall side-stepping through defences.

He began playing aged four, for Old Brodleians in Hipperholme in West Yorkshire, and was often a match-day mascot at Rotherham when his dad represented the club. As Mike Umaga ventured into coaching, Jacob spen evenings and weekends at various National League clubs. He was never short of advice.

"If I was struggling, I would have my dad there to speak to, or my mum, or my uncle," he said. "My mum played Great Britain rugby league and coached quite a bit as well. She would say to me, 'Don't get hurt' and my dad would say, 'You need to hurt people!'"

Jacob demonstrated that understanding at a young age. When he was 10 he suggested a move to his father, who was coaching Coventry at the time. It led to a try against Sedgley Park.

"It was a cross-field kick and they ran something in the middle," he said. "My dad said, 'This was a move my little son wrote up so we will try it out' - and they scored off it.

"He looked up to the stands and gave me a thumbs-up."

Now Jacob is out there running the show while Mike watches on and offers guidance.

And thousands of miles away, uncle Tana will be following his progress with pride.