(Reuters) – Tonga’s Telusa Veainu is relishing a first international meeting with his nuisance of a neighbour and Leicester Tigers team mate Manu Tuilagi when they face England in their Rugby World Cup opener on Sunday.
The 28-year-old fullback said Samoan-born Tuilagi had helped him settle into life in England following his 2015 move and also deal with the disappointment of being out of action for eight months due to a foot injury last year.
Tuilagi is no stranger to injuries having come back from career-threatening groin, hamstring and knee problems to make Eddie Jones’ World Cup squad.
“He lives less than 100 metres from me and can be a nuisance sometimes. But he helped me settle in (at Leicester) and he has been through some dark times with injuries as well,” Veainu told a news conference on Wednesday.
“He told me everything happens for a reason. If I hadn’t got injured I would have missed my daughter’s birth last November because I would have been with Tonga in Wales.”
Having had a spell on the sidelines, Veainu is relieved to back and excited to share the pitch with familiar foes.
“I’m so looking forward to it, especially with so many Leicester guys in the England squad,” Veainu said, before joking: “I’ll try to play as dirty as I can.”
England had encouraging news on the injury front with Joe Cokanasiga and Mark Wilson back in full training following knee problems while Mako Vunipola (hamstring) and Jack Nowell (ankle) were also stepping up their recovery.
“We’ve had a really good day. Mark Wilson and Joe Cokanasiga have trained and Mako Vunipola has done live scrummaging, while Jack Nowell has been flying down the side of the pitch,” England scrum coach Neal Hatley said.
“We’re very pleased with how things are going.”
(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Ken Ferris)