5 Mar 2019

Rugby: Cancer won't get in the way of Manu's World Cup bid

11:51 am on 5 March 2019

The former Highlanders loose foward Nasi Manu is confident he can overcome testicular cancer and play for Tonga in the Rugby World Cup this year.

Manu who played a key role in the Highlanders Super Rugby title win four years ago is now based in Italy with the Bennetton Terviso club and has undergone surgery and chemotherapy and told Rugby World magazine he is back training and raring to play again.

"I've been for a couple of relaxed runs and I daydream about it," he told Rugby World.

"It'll definitely be emotional, just to be back out playing. But the first thing is being able to train with them fully. I can almost taste it - to run opposition, in training against the first-team guys, while the season is still there."

Ben Smith and Nasi Manu hold the Super Rugby trophy aloft after the Highlanders historic win.

Ben Smith and Nasi Manu hold the Super Rugby trophy aloft after the Highlanders historic win. Photo: Photosport

On the eve of Benetton's first match of th Pro14 season, after a few weeks of thinking something wasn't right, Manu finally headed to the doctor.

He was operated on a few days after the diagnosis.

"Once I found out I had cancer, it was never about getting back to the rugby field, it was about my life and being free to live and be a dad for my daughter and husband for my wife," he said.

"But I really feel like a new man now. I am happy to hurt. I'm training, doing cardio, and it feels good to get back to some normality. I think for a little bit, I took things for granted. Now I know how important it is I make the most of this opportunity.

"Moving to Italy, I really enjoyed it and I did work hard. I felt like I was progressing and then I played on my first Test tour with Tonga. I came back and then hit a speed bump," he said.

"Going through cancer and chemo has been a great sort of awakening for what I really want and my rugby goals, my life goals. I sort of narrowed down what's important to me."

The next step for Manu, medically, is to get a full check-up in June and then, if all goes to plan, he won't need to see a specialist again until 2020.

On the field he says the most pressing mission is to "get the body back in fighting shape". However, when talking about the coming months he mentions competing for Tonga again.

Is playing in the Rugby World Cup a goal of his?

"That's always been a dream to compete on the world stage, to play in a World Cup," says Manu, who has three caps. "The dream is still alive to maybe achieve that this year. I've still got a lot of work.