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Manu eyes World Cup dream

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'The dream is still alive' - Cancer not stopping Manu from chasing World Cup appearance

Cancer-stricken Tongan loose forward Nasi Manu has revealed his desire to appear at the World Cup in Japan later this year.

Six months after being diagnosed with testicular cancer, the three-test international has undergone surgery and chemotherapy in a bid to reignite his stagnant rugby-playing career.

The former Highlanders co-captain, who helped steer the side to its maiden Super Rugby title in 2015, is now contracted to Pro14 side Benetton Treviso after a two-season stint with Edinburgh, although is yet to feature this season.

However, the 30-year-old is back in training, and is raring to play again with an eye firmly focused on representing Tonga at the World Cup.

“I’ve been for a couple of relaxed runs and I daydream about it,” Manu told Rugby World.

“It’ll definitely be emotional, just to be back out playing. But the first thing is being able to train with them fully. I can almost taste it – to run opposition, in training against the first-team guys, while the season is still there.”

Manu was diagnosed on the eve of of Benetton Treviso’s season-opening clash against Dragons after visiting the doctor following a period of feeling as if something wasn’t right.

“Once I found out I had cancer, it was never about getting back to the rugby field, it was about my life and being free to live and be a dad for my daughter and husband for my wife,” he said.

“But I really feel like a new man now. I am happy to hurt. I’m training, doing cardio, and it feels good to get back to some normality. I think for a little bit, I took things for granted. Now I know how important it is I make the most of this opportunity.

“Moving to Italy, I really enjoyed it and I did work hard. I felt like I was progressing and then I played on my first test tour with Tonga. I came back and then hit a speed bump,” he said.

“Going through cancer and chemo has been a great sort of awakening for what I really want and my rugby goals, my life goals. I sort of narrowed down what’s important to me.”

A full medical check-up beckons for Manu in June, and should he emerge from that without any issues, then he won’t need to see a specialist again until 2020.

The World Cup kicks off just three months after his check-up, and it looms as a motivating driver in Manu’s recovery.

“It’s always been a dream to compete on the world stage, to play in a World Cup,” he said.

“The dream is still alive to maybe achieve that this year.

“My first goal is to be available this season for Benetton … Then the dream is to make the World Cup squad.”

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'The dream is still alive' - Cancer not stopping Manu from chasing World Cup appearance