Manu and Tonga aim to excite at World Cup
St Helens star Willie Manu is expected to play a leading role for Tonga at this year’s tournament, having earned a reputation as one of Super League’s most explosive attacking players.
And he believes that the island nation’s exciting brand of Rugby League will excite supporters new and old at Rugby League World Cup 2013.
“We seek to play an entertaining game for the fans and we play to win. I’m sure it’ll be a performance worth watching,” said Manu.
“Once we get the squad together we can start to discuss our targets, and I think the aim has to be to win the group that we’ve been drawn in.
“If we can do that then we can start to look at what else we can achieve, but it’s important to focus on each of our group opponents first, before we start getting ahead of ourselves.
“We have to try and get a couple of wins under our belt and focus on being competitive in every game we play, regardless of who we progress to face.”
Like many of the competing nations, both Tonga and Italy are likely to be able to call upon a number of heritage stars for the tournament.
And there’s a strong chance that seasoned stars Craig Gower, Anthony Laffranchi and Anthony Minichiello could turn out for the Azzurri.
But Manu believes the inclusion of players who qualify through family ties or residence is good for the tournament.
“Italy could be a real tough prospect with the number of heritage players then can call on, but I think can only be good for the game,” he said.
“I think it’ll raise standards at the tournament, teams will have good strong squads, and the result is a much more exciting Rugby League World Cup 2013.
“A lot of the attention is on Australia, New Zealand and England, but a lot of the other teams are quietly assembling some really good squads.”
Manu was born in Sydney but has played for Tonga six occasions, and represented the nation at Rugby League World Cup 2008.
“I’m always proud to represent Tonga and I’ll be happy to play for them again this year if I am selected and can stay injury free
“It’s a big opportunity for for us to put ourselves on the map as a League-playing nation. We had a good squad for the last World Cup but we probably didn’t perform as well as we could have.
“There are a lot of talented young players out there and I think if we get our squad right we’ll be in a position to stamp our mark in Rugby League.
“And I think we could see a few Tongan domestic players playing at the tournament too, which is great for the development of the sport over there.
“I think the last time the World Cup was England, a number of players got their opportunity off the back of it, and from playing well in front of the clubs here.
“A few guys picked up contracts in the Super League and the NRL, and I’m sure RLWC2013 will be no different. It’s a great shop window for players just coming through the ranks.
“It’s a good opportunity for any player, not just those involved with the Tonga team. If you want to make a mark and earn an opportunity then this stage is where to do it.”
Tonga face Scotland at Derwent Park on October 29, Cook Islands at Leigh Sports Village on November 5 and Italy at The Shay on November 10.
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