Patriotic Super-Manu Tuilagi represents his family, village and culture
Manu Tuilagi will take centre stage in the grand final of the Rugby World Cup tonight but his family, villages and beloved country of Samoa will not be far from his mind.
In fact, he will be carrying them with him when he takes the field in the biggest game of his rugby career, when his adopted country, England takes on South Africa for the coveted Webb Elis trophy in Japan.
Speaking to the Samoa Observer from Japan, Manu who holds the Tuita’asauali’i chiefly title from Fatausi Savai’i, said his family, villages and Samoa’s support means the world to him.
“You know, when you’re growing up, your village is your identity; it’s where you’re from,” Manu said. "People will know where you’re from, they’ll be like “oh where is he from? And the village is the first thing that will come up.
“And you’re proud of your village and proud of where you live. Growing up as a kid, you play rugby against (the) kids from the other village; your village against their village.”
In the context of today, and how far Manu Tuilagi’s rugby journey has taken him, he hasn’t forgotten his humble beginnings at Fatausi and in Samoa.
“It means the world to me,” he said of Samoa’s prayers and support. “For me, I just want to thank them for their support.”
When England takes the park tonight, English flags will be flying all over Savai’i.
Throughout the week, banners supporting England were seen all around the village, on the sides of the road, in front of the family homes to show their support for Manu.
“Fatausi, faafetai mo le tou tapuaiga,” Manu said in Samoan. “O lea la’a ou taumafai; fa’amoemoe i le Atua!."
In English, it translates to: “Fatausi, thank you for your support. I will do my best, have faith in God.”
The 28-year-old chief may be a superstar rugby player but to his parents, Namulauulu Lauaki Vavae Tuilagi and Su’a Taupa’u Aliitasi Tuilagi, they still call him their “baby.”
Asked about his relationship with his parents, Manu said “he owes them everything.”
“My relationship with my parents is very important,” he said.
“You know I owe everything to them…for what they’ve done, bringing us all up.
“It wasn’t easy; there are a lot of us and I know (how) hard they both worked to get us in a better place and a better future for us.
“They’re very hard-working people.
“My dad still wakes up at 5 oclock in the morning which I didn’t enjoy because he would wake up (early) in the morning and get me to wake up.
“He would make a coffee and turn the light on at 5am in the morning and called out to my brothers and I’d pretend to sleep.
“But yeah we’re all thankful, me and my brothers are thankful to my mom and dad for their support and their continuous blessing to us.
“They pray for us; (and they) pray to God to give us strength and power to be able to play and perform the talent that we’ve been blessed with.
Growing up, Manu said his father, who is also a former Member and Speaker of Parliament, was his “hero.”
“I looked up to my dad, and he’s the man,” he said, laughing.
“He wasn’t a rugby player, he was a boxer. Heavyweight champion of the world… haha," he said jokingly.
"He’s a very hardworking man and he led us to try and be like him. We’re not there most of the time and we miss them a lot, so we try and get back to Samoa whenever we can.”
Manu starred in England’s victory over the All Blacks last week. And being the only Samoan playing in the final tonight, he can bank on a lot of home support from this part of the world.