Rugby World Cup 2011: Tongan giant on emotional showdown

When Tonga line up against New Zealand for Friday's World Cup opener, do not be surprised if you see a 6' 3'', 19-and-a-half stone giant shed a tear.

Soane Tonga'uiha, the bruising Tongan front row forward, is set to face the nation his family moved to over 20 years ago, in the city where he started his rugby career.

The moment the Tongan national anthem rings around Eden Park is when the eyes of the 29-year-old could start to well up.

"I think that's when it's going to start hitting me. Preparations will go out of the window because emotions will be running riot," he told BBC Look East.

"It's going to be hard, it's not going to be easy to stop tears coming down. It will be a very emotional moment that I'm quite looking forward to."

The Northampton Saints forward, whose family moved to Auckland from Tonga when he was eight years old, found professional rugby opportunities hard to come by in his adopted home.

And when he failed to land a Super Rugby contract he headed to England and, more specifically, the Bedford Blues in 2005.

A move to Saints followed and, a soap opera style u-turn on a move to Saracens aside, that is where he has been since.

"New Zealand's where I played all my rugby, it's where I started," Tonga'uiha explained.

"I didn't get a career out of it over there so it's going to be interesting to see how far I've come and measure myself against the best team in the world."

Friday is set up to be all about the All Blacks. The tournament favourites, on their own turf, in front of a success-hungry crowd - the Tongans, ranked 12th in the world, are not fancied to stage a heroic upset.

But if it is to happen, the forward power of Tonga'uiha and company will be key.

He received plaudits for his tenacious displays in the scrum for Saints last season in what was one of the most successful campaigns at Franklin's Gardens for over a decade.

"As much as I would like to take the credit for how we've been scrummaging, you can't take it all," he said.

"You can't scrum on your own, if one, two, or three guys aren't pushing their weight, then you're not going to be doing as well.

"Hopefully I can try and install that in the Tongan team and get them to work in the way Northampton have been working."

That is assuming he can keep the emotions in check, especially with his mum, who he has not seen in three years, looking on.

"My mum will probably cheering the loudest, because I don't think she's attended any of my professional games.

"So it's going to be quite an emotional game."

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