Fans and whānau mourn 'Inga the Winger'

By James Perry

Tributes are pouring in around the world for former All Black, Manu Samoa rugby and Toa Samoa rugby league international Va'aiga Tuigamala.

Tuigamala, All Black number 900, took the rugby world by storm as a 19-year-old, making his debut for the All Blacks in 1989. He played 19 test matches before switching to rugby league in 1993, signing with English giants Wigan Warriors.

His childhood friend, Apollo Perelini, who would eventually join Tuigamala in the UK with Warrior's rivals St Helens led the tributes on social media.

A teammate of Inga's at Wigan, Jason Robinson, who later became a superstar in union, said he was 'absolutely heartbroken' by Tuigamala's shock passing.

"I owe so much to this amazing man! Literally helped my life when he came to Wigan Warriors from NZ."

Back in New Zealand, former National MP, Tau Henare shared a memory on Twitter of Tuigamala that showed his affinity to Māori. 

"One of the cool things about seeing my doctor was the fact that I would have the chance to say Malo to Tuigamala, who would be waiting to his doctor, He would say 'Kia ora, kei te pehea koe', and I would reply 'Manuia Faafetai'. See you round Big Man."

Tuigamala is survived by his wife, Daphne, and four children.