Former rugby union and rugby league star Va’aiga Tuigamala, who died aged 52 on Thursday, was one of “those people who touch you the first time you meet them”, said Ireland rugby union coach Andy Farrell.
Farrell played with Tuigamala at English rugby league side Wigan and said he had “been in awe” of the Samoa-born powerhouse’s skill.
Tuigamala earned 19 caps for the All Blacks and represented Samoa in both codes, as well as being a key part of the Wigan team that dominated English domestic rugby league in the early 1990s.
Farrell admitted when he read about the news of his former teammate’s death he had to “have a minute to myself.”
“You got me there,” said a visibly moved Farrell when asked about him at a press conference on Friday.
“He was a tremendous fellow. I was very lucky to be able to spend some time with him. Sometimes you meet some people who touch you straight from the off.
“His smile, his generosity was outstanding. He touched everyone and was very giving of his knowledge and that is me talking about him as a person and as a family man.
“The amount of people who would come over and see him, not just family, you could see what he meant to them.
“When he left I was gutted, he added so much to the group. It is the person I miss first and foremost.
“He was awesome,” said Farrell. “I was in awe of his skill, I was only young when he came over to rugby league.
“I recall one game in particular when Inga was thrown into a game playing at centre against the legendary Mal Meninga.
“What a tussle and he played unbelievably well. He had amazing feet for a dynamic beast of a man. My prayers and thoughts are with his nearest and dearest.”