Super Rugby Pacific: Prop James Lay named Moana Pasifika captain for 2024 campaign

Former Blues and Auckland prop James Lay has been named Moana Pasifika captain for the 2024 Super Rugby Pacific campaign.

Lay, 30, already has 10 Super Rugby appearances over three seasons with the Blues, but will switch to the Mt Smart-based Pacific side this year, building on his international experience with Manu Samoa.

Older brother Jordan Lay remains with the Blues franchise.

James Lay in action for Auckland.
James Lay in action for Auckland. Photo credit: Photosport

"It's a privilege I don't take lightly," said Lay. "I was able to tell my brother, mum and dad, and my girlfriend, and they’re all happy for me." 

The veteran front-rower succeeds Christian Lealiifano, Sekope Kepu and Solomone Funaki as captain, under new coach Tana Umaga.

"I'm lucky that I've got a good leadership group around me with plenty of experience," said Lay. "I've been impressed with how they're leading the team.

"I can take a step back and allow them to deliver key messages as well. I got some nice personal messages from the boys in that group, and they just said they've got my back no matter what.

"They’re here to support me with whatever we need." 

Moana Pasifika have finishes bottom of the competition table over their first two seasons, winning just three of 28 games.

"As a team, we want to put in performances that our people will be proud of," said Lay. "We want our fans and our people to look up to us and get behind us in what we’re trying to achieve.

"For me, I just need to focus on being the best version of myself and hopefully the others will follow."

Umaga has no qualms about elevating the newcomer to the leadership.

"James is a hard worker and he leads through his actions as much as he leads through his words," he said. "The way he plays, he doesn't cut corners and showcases all the values that this team’s about.

“For us, he was a standout choice and we had a lot of choices in this group. He's not one that leads because he wants to be seen or known, but he leads because that's his nature."

Moana Pasifika open their 2024 account against Highlanders at Dunedin on February 24.