Sport: Tonga brings back stars, introduces one new cap for RWC

12:00 pm on 2 September 2019

Inspirational leader Nasi Manu and star outside back Telusa Veainu have been named to return to international play as part of Tonga's Rugby World Cup squad, which includes one new cap.

Christchurch-based hooker, Siua Maile, has been brought into the squad at the expense of veteran Elvis Taione and could make his international debut in Japan.

Manu, who was diagnosed with testicular cancer last year, was originally named as 'Ikale Tahi captain for this year's Pacific Nations Cup, but had to withdraw from the campaign because of a pectoral injury.

Ben Tameifuna and the 'Ikale Tahi perform the Sipi Tau

Ben Tameifuna and the 'Ikale Tahi perform the Sipi Tau Photo: Photosport

He had missed the entire 2018 season for his Italian club Bennetton Treviso while he undertook treatment.

Leicester star and former UK Players' Player of the Year, Veainu, returns after missing the PNC because of a head knock.

Nasi Manu said the last year had been a challenge but things were looking up.

"The 12 months have obviously been a testing time but at the same time it has put a lot of things into perspective and what is really important to me," he said.

"I am just excited to be back in the red uniform and hopefully be able to play."

Manu said he hoped he would return to rugby a better player than he was in the past.

Tonga number eight Nasi Manu is hoping to be fit in time for the 'Ikale Tahi's opening World Cup game against England.

Tonga number eight Nasi Manu is hoping to be fit in time for the 'Ikale Tahi's opening World Cup game against England. Photo: RNZ Pacific/Vinnie Wylie

The former Highlander loosies said he spent his time on the sidelines fine-tuning his game.

"I was watching a lot of rugby and I guess I did sort of analyse how I do play and I sort of thought of how I want to play moving forward. The excitement levels and the happiness for me is at an all-time high. Just appreciate being in a rugby environment."

Manu is aiming to be fully fit in time for Tonga's World Cup opener against England on 22 September.

Tonga's coach Toutai Kefu said his squad draws from teams from across the globe.

"We've brought together some really exciting players who are all very passionate about representing Tonga and the red jersey on the biggest stage in our sport," he said.

"Our squad is comprised of players who play in some of the top competitions around the world including the English Premiership, the Top 14 and Super Rugby; for us it is now about getting that time together and building towards that first game against England."

Tonga will have their last pre-tournament hit-out against the All Blacks in Hamilton this Saturday which they will focus on first.

"We've got a big week of preparation ahead of us in Hamilton before we take on the All Blacks and we're looking forward to continuing the hard work we've started," Kefu said.

"We take the responsibility of representing the people of Tonga either at home, or wherever they are in the world with a great sense of pride and humility and we look forward to doing them proud in our campaign."

Tonga will also meet Argentina, France and the USA in their pool.

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Photo: Photosport

Tonga 2019 Rugby World Cup Squad:

Siegfried 'Fisiihoi, Vunipola Fifita, Latu 'Talakai, Paula 'Ngauamo, Sosefo 'Sakalia, Siua Maile, Siua 'Halanukonuka, Ma'afu Fia, Ben Tameifuna, Sam Lousi, Leva Fifita, Sitiveni Mafi, Sione Kalamafoni, Maama 'Vaipulu, Fotu 'Lokotui, Zane 'Kapeli, Dan Faleafa, Nasi Manu, Sonatane Takulua, Leon 'Fukofuka, Samisoni Fisilau, Kurt Morath, James 'Faiva, Siale Piutau, Malietoa Hingano, Nafi Tuitavake, Atieli Pakalani, David Halaifonua, Viliami Lolohea, Cooper Vuna, Telusa Veainu.