Call from Chiefs a 'second life' for Manu
Having been married for a year, Pauliasi Manu and his wife thought it was about time they moved out of his parents' place and started a life of their own together.
Melbourne sounded like an exciting choice, with Auckland loosehead prop Manu signing a two-year contract with the Rebels after struggling to make an impact for the Blues behind veteran Tony Woodcock, who later ended up transferring to the Highlanders.
But Manu's move soon turned sour, as he was not cleared from a medical examination upon arrival in November last year because of a pre-existing neck injury.
Despite the Rebels getting a second opinion on the injury they still weren't convinced, so Manu returned to Auckland.
But soon enough the 1.84m, 115kg enforcer was counting his lucky stars, with the Chiefs inviting him to their squad after Josh Hohneck was forced out for the season after a farming accident.
A spinal specialist, Chiefs doctor James McGarvey, the Auckland and Blues doctors and New Zealand Rugby Union medical director Ian Murphy had all cleared Manu completely fit to play.
The Tongan-born 25-year-old described the injury as "like an elbow bent back with force" though in his neck. However, it hasn't worried him since he joined the Chiefs early last month.
"It's all clear. I've been in contact and scrumming and it's been a hundy [100 per cent]," he said.
Manu, who has played five seasons in the national provincial championship and turned out five times for the Blues, said the call from the Chiefs was a "blessing" and offered him a "second life".
He and his wife now rent a property in Hamilton.
"No more kids running around or mum telling you what to do, that's the best thing," Manu said. Not that that means he's the boss of the house now. "Na, my missus is," he said, laughing.
Manu said the whole team and management had been really welcoming to him.
He had worked with Chiefs assistant coach Andrew Strawbridge when he was assistant at Auckland, but the rest of the staff were new faces.
But he's quickly winning some praise - assistant Wayne Smith has told him he's got good defence, while head coach Dave Rennie rates him as one of the best gym squatters in the country, which translates into his strong scrummaging.
"He's been going great," Rennie said. "He had a few shifts to make when he arrived but gee, he's worked hard. He's getting himself in really good nick so he's ticking a lot of boxes in regard to the conditioning side of things. He's really developing his understanding of how we play. He's amazingly powerful in the gym; his squats are phenomenal.
"We're very lucky, with losing someone like Josh [Hohneck], to be able to pick up Pauliasi at that stage. We're rapt to have him."
Formerly a hooker, Manu reckons he used to have more pace, but now is happy focusing on scrummaging and defence, while he is also studying the tactical parts of the Chiefs' game.
"Just getting into the game system, trying to adjust to it [after] coming into an environment where the system is different," Manu said. "I have to catch up on it and transfer it into the game, hopefully. It's not difficult, it's just something I have to do some homework on, every night."
With the Chiefs' first pre-season game just 10 days away, Manu is itching for a chance to show his wares on the park in order to be able to push for a place in the top XV. "Real keen, man; we've been training for so long, which I hate. It's all about the game, man, it's all about the game; can't wait."