'Pretty keen to talk': Ian Foster open to Joseph Manu code switch
All Blacks head coach Ian Foster says he is “pretty keen” to begin talks with NRL star Joseph Manu about a cross-code switch to rugby union.
The 25-year-old, who has played five tests for the Kiwis, is off-contract with the Roosters on November 1 and is reportedly being eyed up by numerous rugby league clubs, including the New Zealand Warriors.
The Brisbane Broncos and Gold Coast Titans are also believed to be interested in signing Manu, but NZR are thought to be serious contenders to acquire the New Zealand-born product’s signature.
Now Foster has weighed in on the matter as he told reporters on Thursday that he is open to talking to Manu about a move to rugby union.
“I’m a Tokoroa man, he’s a Tokoroa man, he might as well come back and try,” Foster said when asked about reports linking Manu to a cross-code switch.
“He’s a quality league player and, like always happens at times like this, it’s really up to the player to figure out where his dream is.
“It’s not up to us to persuade or coerce, and so, really, if he wants to play rugby, then I guess we’re pretty keen to talk.”
Manu would add to a long list of cross-code athletes who have flitted between rugby league and rugby union, with the most recent high-profile star being new Auckland and Blues star Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.
While he is yet to make his professional rugby union debut, Tuivasa-Sheck is widely tipped to feature for the All Blacks, but Foster is wary of the transition process for rugby league players given the different nuances of the two sports.
“Making sure they know the game, that’s number one,” Foster said of the challenges that face rugby league players who come to rugby union.
“The complexities of our game versus the complexities of league, it is a different game with a number of similar skill sets.”
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) August 12, 2021
Manu would face similar challenges, but the two-time NRL Premiership winner’s desire to succeed in rugby union has been documented, as he told the Sydney Morning Herald two years ago that he harbours aspirations play for the All Blacks.
“Ever since I was young I wanted to be an All Black,” Manu said in 2019.
“I’m still a big fan of them, especially when it comes to World Cups. It’s a pretty big occasion for pretty much all New Zealanders. I love [watching] at the moment, but one day, I would love to play for them.”
According to the Daily Telegraph, NZR are able to offer Manu a deal worth $600,000 per season, which includes a Super Rugby contract, but it is understood the national union is yet to approach the 1.92m, 98kg powerhouse.
By comparison, it is believed Manu could command up to $1 million per year in the NRL, which is where Roosters head coach Trent Robinson is eager for his star man to stay.
For the first time, Samisoni Taukei’aho will have plenty of notice that he’ll be playing a test match in the upcoming weekend – and that’s just added to the nerves. #AllBlacks #NZLvAUShttps://t.co/P7t0ER4Nw2
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) August 12, 2021
“There’s no concerns there in that sense,” Robinson said when asked about the similarities between the defection of Tuivasa-Sheck, an ex-Rooster, to union and the possible loss of Manu to rugby union.
“There’s obviously lessons learned in how that went about, but that’s life. Joey is a different guy to Roger as well. He’s been here for much longer as well. Roger was only here for a couple of years before he left whereas Joey’s been here a long long time now.
“Joey’s always been important to us. Ever since he was a kid and came over here you can see what he means to us as a team.
“He’s been a Rooster, he is a Rooster, and his family are Roosters as well, so we understand. It’d be mad if there wasn’t interest, but we definitely want to keep him as a Rooster.”
However, given Manu’s impressive form and his status as one of the NRL’s hottest properties, his $1 million price tag may force a move elsewhere if the star-studded Roosters are to stay under the salary cap.
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