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Coleman: 'Family keeps me grounded'

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Adam Coleman's poignant tribute to his late father Pau'u Afeaki, the former Tongan skipper

Australia second row Adam Coleman has paid tribute on the eve of the World Cup to the lasting influence his father Pau’u Afeaki – who captained Tonga before dying when Coleman was just 12.

The Hobart-born Wallaby has played 34 times under Michael Cheika since getting his first cap in 2016 and with the 27-year-old now set for a money-spinning move to London Irish in the English Premiership, he expressed his gratitude for his family in helping him enjoy the career that he has.  

“That is the reason I play rugby,” he said about his late father. “If you have your old man play rugby for Tonga and you have got three or four cousins who play professional rugby, as a youngster you always look up to them and you are like, ‘I want to play rugby, I want to be better than them. I want to get out there and find out why they love it so much’.

“I just think about my family when I am running out,” he added, acknowledging his mother’s role in bringing him up on her own after Afeaki passed away. “I always write ‘mum’ on my left wrist and now I write ‘Thea’, my little girl, on my right. It’s more about the sacrifices they have made for me to get where I am. 

“It’s making sure I never take it for granted. We are very privileged to run out there and do something we love, and just reminding myself of that every time I run out keeps me grounded and keeps me focused on the job at hand.”

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Coleman’s 2019 had been hindered by injury but he is now hoping to sign off from the Wallabies with a bright World Cup campaign ahead of his post-tournament move to London. “It’s been a bumpy ride, especially this year through injury, but I’m ready to get out there and give it a good crack,” he said ahead of Saturday’s opener against Fiji in Sapporo. 

“There are going to be injuries, but I knew if I got my body right I would back myself all day… I was a little bit emotional after the Samoan game (Australia’s final warm-up match ahead of RWC2019) because I knew it would probably be my last game in Australia for a while. 

“The gold jersey means so much to me. It wasn’t a light decision going overseas. I’m definitely cherishing every moment in that jersey I get. If you talk about momentum it’s very important – start our campaign well and that will follow into the Welsh game. 

“But Fiji are a quality side, very physical, love to throw the ball around. It’s going to be indoors, so there should be some great running rugby.”

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Adam Coleman's poignant tribute to his late father Pau'u Afeaki, the former Tongan skipper