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Sir Steve Hansen tips Joey Manu to have ‘similar success’ to All Black SBW

By Finn Morton
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 09: Joseph Manu of the Roosters during the NRL Elimination Final match between Cronulla Sharks and Sydney Roosters at PointsBet Stadium on September 09, 2023 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

Legendary All Blacks coach Sir Steve Hansen has tipped Joseph Manu to have “similar success” to dual international Sonny Bill Williams in rugby union after it was revealed the NRL star would be switching codes.

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NRL powerhouse the Sydney Roosters announced on Tuesday that Manu, who has played 164 games for the Tricolours, would be off to rugby after signing with Toyota Verblitz for the 2024/25 Japan Rugby League One season.

Manu, who set a new record for the most running metres [373] in an NRL game on Thursday, was strongly linked with a move to French rugby about 70 days ago amidst uncertainty about the New Zealander’s playing future.

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But instead, the New Zealand Kiwis fullback will join a star-studded side at the Japanese club which includes Rugby World Cup winners Aaron Smith and Pieter-Steph du Toit. It’s been reported that former All Blacks coach Ian Foster will coach the team.

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Two-time World Cup winner Sir Steve Hansen is also the Director of Rugby at the Japanese club. Hansen, 64, “couldn’t say yes quick enough” when he first heard about Manu’s interest in jumping codes.

“It’s no different to what we did with Sonny. Joey and Sonny are excellent athletes, and there’s no reason he can’t be a similar success,” Hansen told The Sydney Morning Herald.

“The best thing about Joey is he’s doing this for the right reasons. He wants to come to us to learn how to play the game.

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“He’s so talented, there are no two ways about it. He seems to make the right decisions at the right time. He has a very good work ethic, and in all my dealings with him so far, he’s also a good character.

“We want him to achieve his goals, and along the way, he’ll help us achieve ours.”

Manu, who was recognised as the world’s best international rugby league player in 2022, joins Roosters teammate Joseph-Aukuso Suaalii in making the move to the 15-player game.

Suaalii signed a lucrative deal with Rugby Australia and the NSW Waratahs about one year ago, but the towering outside back will officially make the move at the end of the NRL season.

It’s a bold move for both men. Many athletes have tried to make the switch across codes but only a few have been considered as ‘greats’ in both sports.

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Sonny Bill Williams, who Hansen compared Manu to, is certainly one of them. The New Zealander won premierships in the NRL and World Cups in rugby, and he’s also a successful heavyweight boxer.

Later this year, Manu will embark on his own journey.

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“I like the fact he wants to come here away from the spotlight a wee bit,” Hansen said.

“He can work on the stuff he needs to work on and eh can grow himself and his game without the constant scrutiny of being in [the] New Zealand or the Australian market.

“He’s already played fullback in the NRL, has the speed and talent to play on the wing, and can also play in the centres. He’ll tell us by his performances at training.”

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