Northampton Saints: Samu Manoa praised by former team-mate
Aviva Premiership final: Leicester v Northampton
- Venue: Twickenham
- Date: Saturday, 25 May
- Kick-off: 15:00 BST
Coverage: Commentary on BBC Radio 5 live, BBC Radio Leicester and BBC Radio Northampton, live text commentary on the BBC Sport website
Northampton number eight Samu Manoa was always going to be a "special player", according to a former team-mate from his time in the United States.
Bruce Thomas is now club director at Manoa's old club, San Francisco Golden Gate, who play in the Northern California Division One and Elite Cup.
He told BBC Radio Northampton: "Seeing how he performed out here, I knew he'd be a special player for Northampton.
"Samu is the best player we've had. He had the potential and the ability."
Samu Manoa has been exceptional all season for Saints, playing in the second row or the back row.
If anything, his performances have stepped up another notch in recent weeks.
He's established himself as a top-quality number 8, both as a ball-carrier and as a fearsome tackler.
Thomas continued: "People in the rugby community [here] are definitely aware of Samu and his success, and Northampton Saints as a club.
"In the Bay area, there's a strong Polynesian contingent, so when a guy like Samu is successful it has a big effect."
Manoa, a 28-year-old USA international of Tongan descent, made a big impact in his first season for Saints, winning both the club's Players' Player and Supporters' Player of the Season awards.
The California-born forward can now look forward to Saturday's Premiership final against Leicester Tigers, knowing that he has taken an unusual path to Twickenham.
"I did rugby for a weekend thing, to have something to do and to stay fit, for fun," said Manoa, who scored two tries in 32 appearances this season.
"I was laying concrete with my dad, doing electrician work, chopping trees - you name it, I did it.
"Golden Gate wanted me to play for their Super League team and I got red-carded in my second game. I didn't come back to rugby for four years, but my uncles [including Australian World Cup-winner Viliami Ofahengaue] kept pushing me."
"[Saints recruitment and development manager] Dusty Hare spotted me when I came with the USA on tour and we played Saracens," explained Manoa. "I had a good game that day and Dusty spotted me.
"I'm really excited to play in a final."
And San Francisco Golden Gate - who also play in green - now have a final of their own to look forward to, against Life University in the Elite Cup Final.
"I just want to wish the boys good luck," said Samoa. "I'm bleeding green, they're bleeding green - you all know what to do. Good luck."