- Mar 05, 1985
- California (United States of America)
It is hard to remember a player who has had such an impact in their first season as Samu Manoa - who only played his first professional game in rugby when the Saints faced Gloucester on the opening day of the 2011/12 season.
Born in Concord, California, the 26-year-old joined the club from San Francisco Golden Gate, with whom he won the National Super League Championship in 2009, crossing four times in the process. In his final game for the Golden Gate, Samu again showed his nose for the tryline, opening the scoring as his side claimed the title once more.
Of Tongan heritage, Samu's grandfather captained the South Seas Islanders during the 60s, while his father was also an international.
Nevertheless, USA gave him an international debut against Georgia during his time in San Francisco and while Samu rejected the Eagles' call for the Rugby World Cup, his decision to instead join the Saints has improved an inspired one.
A series of outstanding performances earned man of the match awards in wins over Castres and Harlequins and the big second row is fast becoming an integral part of the Saints squad - fully illustrated by the three-year contract extension he was awarded just six months into his stay.
Further recognition followed, Samu ending his first professional campaign as an inclusion in ESPN's Dream Team for 2011/12.
It would have been hard to fathom any greater impact from the Californian, but 2012/13 saw just that. Consistently the outstanding performer in Saints colours - not to mention man of the match in wins at Bath and Sale - Samu was an overwhelming double Player of the Season at the Saints Awards.
Absence from the Premiership Dream Team and several Player of the Season shortlists raised plenty of eyebrows but he responded in typical fashion, levelling several Saracens and named ESPN man of the match as the Saints stormed into a Twickenham Grand Final for the first time.