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Former All Black, Tamati Ellison confirmed as Wellington Lions Head Coach


Tēnā koutou e te iwi! 

Nau mai haere mai ki a Tamati Ellison. 

He uri nō Ngai Tahu, Ngāti Porou, Te Āti Awa, Te Arawa me Ngāti Raukawa ki te Tonga. 

I tipu ake ia ki Porirua ki raro i te korowai o Ngāti Toa Rangatira. 

Nō tana taiohitanga ka tākaro ia ki ngā karapu o tēnei rohe, Mana College me Nothern United. 


Wellington Rugby Football Union have today confirmed the appointment of former Wellington Lion, Tamati Ellison as the 2023 Wellington Lions head coach.  

Ellison steps up from 2022 assistant coach to lead the championship winners in the 2023 Bunnings Warehouse NPC competition, filling the coaching position vacated by 2022 head coach, Leo Crowley. 

Ellison said he was excited to be returning to the Lions as head coach.  

This is a really exciting opportunity, and I couldn't be more excited to be taking on this new role. This is a team I’ve worked closely with over the past few seasons; a team that I once played for, and a team that is full of talented players. 

“What we achieved last year was incredible. We developed a really strong culture in this team, and great connection with one another, so I am excited to keep building on that.”  

Ellison brings a wealth of experience to the coaching team, having been a player-coach in the Japanese Top League, with Kurita Water Gush, and more recently, been involved with the Lions coaching group since 2020 and the Crusaders since 2021. Prior to that Ellison represented the All Blacks, Blues, Hurricanes, Highlanders and Rebels. 

Wellington Rugby Football Union CEO Shannon Paku said: “Tamati is a good man with a great deal of mana, and well-respected on and off the field.   

“He helped [Leo Crowley] lead the Lions to victory in the 2022 season, and is now working hard with the Crusaders, so we know he will make a significant contribution, not only to the Lions but also to the wider Wellington Rugby community,” said Paku.

Wellington Lions Captain Du'Plessis Kirifi said: "I think I speak for all of us when I say how stoked we are to have Tams not only recommit to the coaching group but move into the head role. What he offers, not only in terms of his knowledge of the game but also his holistic mentorship, is something we all greatly value as players and young men.  

“Being from Porirua, it’s great to have a local legend contributing to the Wellington rugby community in such a positive way. 

"He’s been massive for my growth as a leader and as a player, his insight is immense so to have someone like that to lean on and learn from is huge,” said Kirifi.  

Ellison made his Super Rugby debut for the Blues in 2005, then went on to represent the Hurricanes from 2006 to 2010. Following a stint in Japan with Ricoh Black Rams, Ellison returned to New Zealand to link up with the Highlanders for their 2012 and 2013 seasons, before making his way back to Japan and the Black Rams. He finished his Super Rugby playing career in 2016 after three seasons with the Melbourne Rebels, returning to Japan once again. 

The 39-year-old also has a number of national honours to his name, pulling on the black jersey for the Junior All Blacks and the Māori All Blacks between 2005 and 2009, and winning a Commonwealth Games gold medal with the New Zealand Sevens team in 2006.  

In 2009, he earned a selection in the All Blacks, becoming All Black number 1099 when he made his debut against Italy on the end of year tour. 

Most recently, the four-Test All Black was a player-coach in the Japanese Top League, with Kurita Water Gush, and he was part of the Wellington Lions coaching group for the 2020 provincial season. 

Crowley, who led the 2022 Lions to victory, said that he was thrilled to see Ellison appointed head coach: “It’s great news. Tams [Tamati] brings experience and continuity to the position. He has a great connection with the players, and it really is an exciting time to be involved with the Lions.” 


"E poho kererū ana mātou te whānau i a Tamati kia tū ai hei kaiwhakaako matua mō te kapa Raiona i tēnei tau. 

He ihu oneone hei kaitākaro, hei kaiwhakaako hoki.  

Māringanui i ngā āheinga kua riro i a ia, kia whakawhanake ai ōna pukenga tākaro, akoako hoki ki Aotearoa, otirā, ki Tāwāhi, hēoi anō, kāore he wāhi e tua atu i te kāinga mōna. 

Iti rearea teitei kahikatea ka taea!"

[Translation] "We are happy and proud that Tamati is going to lead the Lions in the 2023 season as head coach, he’s always worked tirelessly as a player and it’s no different now for him as a coach.  

Tamati has been blessed with opportunities to further both his playing and coaching career in Aotearoa and overseas. But being back in Te Whanga-nui-a-Tara for Tamati means being home and that’s definitely where his heart is," - Tamati Ellison’s whānau