Edinburgh new signing Nasi Manu open to Scotland call

Highlanders forward to keep international options open ahead of move to Scottish capital this summer

By Gareth Llewellyn

Edinburgh Rugby-bound forward Nasi Manu insists he is keeping his international options open with a view to representing Scotland.

The 26-year-old number eight will link up with his new team-mates later this month for the start of his two-year deal with the Guinness PRO12 club.

I spoke to my agent and, in terms of Scotland, I think it was part of the plan. I’m going to keep myself eligible for the next three years.

Nasi Manu

The all-action Highlanders co-captain, who hails from the Canterbury region of New Zealand’s South Island, is considered by some pundits there to be the latest in a line of talented Kiwis, including former Highlanders and Edinburgh utility-back Brendan Laney, who can count themselves unlucky not to earn an All Blacks call up.

Scotland-qualified Laney was parachuted into the Dark Blues squad by then head coach Ian McGeechan just days after arriving in Edinburgh in November 2001 and went on to win 20 caps, but Manu will have to put in three years of service before he has a chance of seeing international action for the first time since 2008.

He was part of the New Zealand U20 squad that defeated England 38-3 to win IRB Junior World Championship in Wales, with his team-mates back then including Sean Maitland and Grayson Hart, who are now Scotland internationals.

With no call from New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen forthcoming and incumbent number eight Kieran Read not giving up his jersey any time soon, Manu has so far declined his take up his option to play for Tonga, but admits he would consider playing for Scotland.

“I haven’t really thought about talking to [the Scotland coaches] about the possibility of switching allegiances,” Manu told The Sport Review.

“I was speaking to Brendan Laney and he said he really loved it in Edinburgh.

“With Scotland, I haven’t not lost my eligibility. If all is going good and I’ve played in Scotland for a few years I could potentially play for them.

“I spoke to my agent and, in terms of Scotland, I think it was part of the plan. I’m going to keep myself eligible for the next three years.

“It’s an excellent plan for me for two years then hopefully one year after.”

From watching at home, to seeing his uncle represent Australia, rugby has always been a huge part of Manu’s life.

Christchurch Boys’ High School has produced a number of the country’s top sportsmen. Among the famous alumni is cricket legend Sir Richard Hadlee, while more recently Chris Martin, Corey Anderson and Tim Latham have represented the Black Caps.

I’m pretty happy with my achievements and doing what I love as a job. Well, it’s not really a job – I just get paid.

Nasi Manu

In rugby union, Christchurch’s alumni is even more impressive, going back to the start of the 20th century with All Blacks centre Bob Deans.

New Zealand’s current coach Steve Hansen and his mentor Sir Graham Henry both came through the school, as did renowned prop Richard Loe, a team-mate of Hansen’s in the first XV.

Dave Hewett, Daryl Gibson, Aaron Mauger and Andrew Mehrtens, who also found their way to the UK, came through the same grounding before current established All Blacks Dan Carter, Ben and Owen Franks, Luke Romano, Colin Slade, and Brodie Retallick, the current World Rugby Player of the Year.

Manu concedes he was lucky to have progressed through one of New Zealand’s prestigious breeding grounds for sporting talent that catapulted him into an eight-year career in Super Rugby.

“Rugby has always been a part of my family,” he said.

“Growing up, my parents yelling at the TV and just their love of the game, and my uncle – Daniel Manu – playing professional rugby for the Waratahs and Wallabies at the time, so I guess it was huge.

“It’s fortunate I went to a good high school and we were pretty successful.

“In one year, nearly everyone on the team has played provincial rugby or professional rugby – the likes of Colin Slade, Tim Bateman, Owen Franks and Matt Todd.

“I didn’t really know I could become a professional rugby player until high school when I played for New Zealand schools one year and from there I got to the academy, then Canterbury and Crusaders and eventually headed down to the Highlanders.

“I’m pretty happy with my achievements and doing what I love as a job. Well, it’s not really a job – I just get paid.”

While he may not be a household name in Scotland, Manu’s arrival at BT Murrayfield will be a welcome boost to Edinburgh head coach Alan Solomons and his decision to play in the Super Rugby final on Saturday in what is his final game for the Highlanders despite an eye problem is testament to his warrior spirit.

It’s always been a dream of mine to be in the black jersey, but I’ve never quite got there…I just have to move on.

Nasi Manu

Much of the Gunners’ success last season was built on dominant performances by their forwards, but they will begin the 2015/16 season with a depleted pack with the opening weeks of the season coinciding with the start of the Rugby World Cup.

Having been Highlanders co-captain and Canterbury vice-captain in recent seasons, Manu will be a welcome addition to the Gunners’ leadership group once he acclimatises to his new home.

Describing himself as a typical Islander loose forward with a love of physicality, high work rate and big ball carrying, he should more than fill the gap created by the loss of David Denton, who is expected to make Vern Cotter’s 31-man squad.

While the All Blacks dream has eluded him, Manu admits it means a lot to be mentioned in the same breath as the likes of Laney and John Leslie, two New Zealand-born former Highlanders stars who moved to the northern hemisphere and switched allegiances to play for the Dark Blues, and he is happy for the next chapter of his career to be in Scotland.

“I’m stoked to be mentioned alongside those great rugby players,” he said.

“It’s always been a dream of mine to be in the black jersey, but I’ve never quite got there.

“I’m still pretty happy with my achievements and I just have to move on.

“I’m still nervous about going into the unknown, adapting to a new environment and creating new friendships, but I’m pretty excited about the challenge at Edinburgh.”

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