Tonga's cancer beater gets his moment at Rugby World Cup
SAPPORO, Japan (AP) — There were times not long ago when Nasi Manu was too sick and weak from the chemotherapy to walk up the steps at a stadium and watch a game of rugby. On Sunday, he played in a Rugby World Cup match.
Manu got his moment off the bench in Tonga's opening game of the World Cup against England in Sapporo.
Tonga lost 35-3 but got some inspiration by seeing the loose forward come off the bench to complete his recovery from testicular cancer that saw him undergo emergency surgery, months of chemotherapy and miss all international rugby last year and most of this season.
It was Manu's first game back for Tonga since his cancer diagnosis.
"We all knew as a group that this was important for him," coach Toutai Kefu said. "I just had a chat to him and he said he was very tired, he needed more game time, and his lungs were gone.
"But I reassured him, I said 'mate, you're lucky to be back out on the field.' I think that's the first step."
Kefu said he's planning to give Manu a gentle introduction back to international rugby and manage his game time.
"But knowing Nasi, he's a very competitive person and he wants to give 100 percent," Kefu said. "He's a good player on and off the field. An important member for us."
Manu shed tears at a welcoming ceremony for the Tongan team at the World Cup. He said the tears flowed after he realized how far he'd come from last year, when he was fearing for his life and his rugby career was secondary.
Manu's wife and two-year-old daughter are with him for the first two weeks of the Rugby World Cup in Japan and watched him play on Sunday.