By Radio New Zealand Pacific
Inspirational number eight Nasi Manu is set to make his international comeback after being named on the Tongan bench for their opening Rugby World Cup match against England.
The Benetton Treviso player has been named on the bench for his long-awaited return to the test arena in Sapporo on Sunday.
The former Highlanders loose forward missed the entire 2018 season as he underwent treatment for testicular cancer.
Manu was named Tonga’s captain for the Pacific Nations Cup earlier this year but, after suffering a pectoral injury, he had to withdraw from the campaign.
“After the PNC, when I was so close to playing, the feeling of being here you have no idea how proud I am to be here,” he said.
“I was actually quite emotional sitting there in the chair when I received a [RWC 2019] cap – it really made it sink in that I’m actually at the World Cup.”
The 31 year old Manu said after a gym injury ruined his international return two months ago he was taking no chances to ensure he makes it onto the field.
“I just have to trust my process. I’ve done all the hard work, it’s just about maintaining to hope I’m at a low risk of not getting injured again.”
Manu will cover the loose forwards from the bench with coach Toutai Kefu preferring to selected the experienced and powerful Sione Kalamafoni and Maama Vaipulu at six and eight respectively. Rookie international Zane Kapeli completes the starting trio.
First choice hooker Paula Ngauamo is out injured, leaving Sosefo Sakalia to start and allowing Christchurch roofer Siua Malie to start.
The latter made his first class debut in the ‘Ikale Tahi’s 92-7 loss to the All Blacks two weeks ago.
The backline will be led by veteran first-five Kurt Morath and skipper Siale Piutau, who moves to outside centre to make way for Cooper Vuna.
England coach Eddie Jones has made two changes from the side that thrashed Ireland 57-15 last month.
Courtney Lawes replaces George Kruis at lock and Anthony Watson takes the place of Fiji-born wing Joe Cokanasiga.
David Halaifonua, Atieli Pakalani, Siale Piutau (capt), Cooper Vuna, Viliami Lolohea, Kurt Morath, Sonatane Takulua, Maama Vaipulu, Zane Kapeli, Sione Kalamafoni, Leva Fifita, Sam Lousi, Ben Tameifuna, Sosefo Sakalia, Siegfried Fisiihoi.
Reserves: Siua Maile, Latu Talakai, Ma’afu Fia, Dan Faleafa, Nasi Manu, Leon Fukofuka, James Faiva, Nafi Tu’itavake.
Elliot Daly, Anthony Watson, Manu Tuilagi, Owen Farrell (capt), Jonny May, George Ford, Ben Youngs, Billy Vunipola, Sam Underhill, Tom Curry, Maro Itoje, Courtney Lawes, Kyle Sinckler, Jamie George, Joe Marler.
Reserves: Luke Cowan-Dickie, Ellis Genge, Dan Cole, George Kruis, Lewis Ludlam, Willi Heinz, Henry Slade, Jonathan Joseph.