Tuilagi Senior proud of his "baby" Manu Tuilagi
Any father’s dream is to see their son succeed. Ask Namulauulu Tuilagi Vavae Leo II and he will tell you all about it.
The 72-year-old Chief from the village of Fatausi in the big island of Savai'i is the father of the renowned Tuilagi brothers who all played for Samoa: Freddie Tuilagi, Henry Tuilagi, Alesana Tuilagi, Anitelea Tuilagi, Vavae Tuilagi.
His youngest son, Manu Tuilagi is playing for England and is competing in the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.
According to Namulauulu, England’s centre Manu Tuilagi may be a star in the eyes of others, however, Manu is and will “always be his baby”
“He is the youngest of my seven boys," he says.
"Six of them played rugby, including Manu, and one is here taking care of us in Savaii.
“Sometimes I cry when I see him on the field. It gets hard sometimes seeing him being physical and going hard against other players because in my mind and in my heart, he is still our baby.
“His last game I watched, I got emotional and mixed feelings when I saw the way he played. I mean I am proud of the way he plays and I can see he has worked really hard to get to where he is now, but parts of me fear that he might end up injuring himself on the field.
“And it’s natural for any parent to feel that way."
Namulau’ulu is overjoyed about his son’s journey to Japan.
“Any dad would be proud of the person Manu is today. It hasn’t been easy and I know he had gone through so many difficulties in life. But to see him play in this year’s World Cup is something I am proud of," he said.
“There was a lot of pressure on him as his older brothers were very good players as well, but they’re all different and I am proud of Manu and his journey so far.
“I don’t show it often but, in my heart, I am very happy and content with his achievements. I am also grateful to God for the strength he has given me and for these many years he has blessed me with to be with my family and children.”
Tuilagi Senior says that even from a young age Manu was marked out as a strong person.
“He has the heart of his dad,” he said, jokingly.
"I wasn’t a professional rugby players like my boys. However, you are looking at [a] former heavyweight champion in the game of boxing. As a boxer, I always challenge my boys to remain strong both physically and mentally.
“And that really shows when they are on the field. It’s the same with Manu."
He recalls the time that Manu, while still a very young boy, used to disregard his father's well-intentioned growls warning him against climbing up a mango tree beside the family home.
"The branch he was standing on broke and my poor son fell to the ground. I rushed to him and saw that he didn’t even cry, even though he was hurt," he recalls.
“And every time I see him on the field I see that he still has that strong heart. Nothing can stop him from getting what he wants and achieving what he wants.”
Namulau’ulu said it doesn’t matter which team Manu is representing in the World Cup.
"What matters to me is that he gives it his best and that he play whole-heartedly. Everyone knows he is from Samoa, everyone knows he comes from Savaii," he said.
“His full name is Manusamoa. I named him after our rugby team because he was born when my eldest son, Freddie, was making a big name for himself playing for Samoa.
“So even though he plays for England, he carries the name Manu Samoa and his heart remains with the place where he was born and raised.”
What is his message to his son before any game?
“You know as Christians, the first thing I do is to gather my family and pray together. It has been a family tradition to pray before any game.
“And I always tell my son to pray to God always before any of his games.
“I always tell him to look forward and keep moving on instead of looking back. That also applies to rugby."