Manu returning to rugby after cancer battle

Former Highlanders No8 Nasi Manu will return to the rugby field after overcoming cancer. Photo:...
Former Highlanders No8 Nasi Manu will return to the rugby field after overcoming cancer. Photo: Getty Images
After months of uncertainty, Nasi Manu's overjoyed to see light at the end of the tunnel.

The former Highlanders co-captain has been included in Tonga's squad for the upcoming Pacific Nations Cup after going into remission following treatment for testicular cancer late last year.

Manu hasn't played since his diagnosis and missed his Italian club Benetton Treviso's entire Pro 14 season in Europe.

The three-test loose forward's last outing for Benetton was on April 14 last year.

He says there aren't enough words to explain how he's feeling ahead of his return to the rugby field.

"It's been a long road and I've been dreaming of the day I can play again and the possibility of being out there for Tonga is really exciting and overwhelming," he said.

After being told at the end of September that he'd have to undergo chemotherapy, Manu was then advised to not do any physical exercise.

"The specialist told my trainer I literally had to just live like a normal person and playing with my daughter was alright, but nothing too strenuous.

"For me that was pretty tough for three or four months and the chemo did knock me pretty hard and I was pretty nauseous a lot of the time."

Manu says once he was given the good news in February post-chemotherapy he was allowed to slowly return back into physical training.

"For the last five or so months I've built myself as close as I can to my personal bests, but every day I train I'm so happy and overwhelmed with the feeling of potentially being back."

Manu made a personal account of his cancer battle via video diaries and says the last year has been a mental, physical and emotional rollercoaster.

"I received a lot of love and support, with a special mention to my club, teammates and obviously my family and friends.

"I'm just so happy to still possibly be able to accomplish another dream that is to potentially play in the World Cup.

"I had to prepare myself in case I was still fighting cancer, but to be on the other side, I can't really explain it, but it's great."

Former All Blacks first-five Aaron Cruden played a big part in helping Manu through one of the toughest times of his life.

Cruden was also diagnosed with testicular cancer, as a 19-year-old in 2008, before going on to make 50 test appearances for the All Blacks.

Manu says Cruden was very supportive from the outset.

"I just talked to him about what I was experiencing and he told me what he went through.

"His experience was a defining time in his life and it was really good for me to see someone who's made it through and he was really great in supporting me."

Manu's motivated to do all he can to make his Rugby World Cup dream become reality when the tournament takes place in Japan in September.

He says while in the back of his mind he's dreaming of playing in the World Cup, he's conscious of not getting too ahead of himself.

"I know that without playing in a year and the competition we have within the Tongan team and the loose forwards, the next three Pacific Nations Cup games are important and I want to put my best foot forward in being able to compete and make the World Cup squad."

Manu will link up with Tonga at a camp in Auckland next week ahead of their first game against Samoa in Apia on July 27.

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