Public farewell for rugby great Va'aiga Tuigamala

Source: 1News

Rugby fans and the wider Auckland community have had the chance to farewell Va'aiga Tuigamala with the late All Black lying in state on Thursday ahead of his funeral.

Tuigamala's casket was taken to Trusts Stadium in West Auckland on Thursday to allow the general public to pay their respects before a family service is held on Friday and his funeral procession on Saturday.

After being taken inside the stadium, a short service was held and songs were sung to acknowledge the occasion before the doors were opened to the public.

Among those attending was former All Black winger Sir John Kirwan who said Tuigamala "changed the game".

"He was incredible as an opposition, scary to mark," Kirwan told 1News.

"But I was just thinking over the last couple of days how he just brought joy; we were of a different generation where we had to be serious - you couldn't even celebrate a try.

"But he did it with a smile on his face, singing and dancing, and just had this new philosophy.

"That was the biggest thing for me - that smile."

Tuigamala's casket remained at Trusts Stadium until 4pm on Thursday but will now stay with the family for a service at Kelston Boys High School on Friday before his final farewell on the weekend.

The 52-year-old, famously known as "Inga the winger", died last month just a day before fellow All Black winger Joeli Vidiri died as well.

A host of teams from both codes paid tribute to "Inga the winger” after his death at 52.

Considered one of rugby’s greats, Tuigamala played in 19 Tests for the All Blacks between 1991 and 1993 and 23 Tests for Manu Samoa from 1996. Later he made a successful switch to rugby league with Wigan in the UK.

His strong performances on the field were acknowledged in 2008 when he was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to rugby and community.