Since the signing of the 27-year-old former Highlanders man was announced earlier in the year, Edinburgh supporters have been keen to grab a glimpse of him in action.
After an extended post-season break following his old club winning the Super Rugby competition, Manu and his partner arrived in the capital on 6 August and he played the second half of last Friday’s friendly win over Ulster at Goldenacre.
“For me winning the Super Rugby trophy gave me closure there because I wasn’t too sure if it was the right time to leave because becoming an All Black was always my dream,” he said.
“My dream changed and I felt like I was ready for a new challenge and I really wanted to come overseas to Europe. Everyone was telling me to go to Japan, but I like physicality and I wanted to experience European rugby and see for myself how good it is here.
“I have only been training for two weeks, but I am pretty impressed with how good our forward pack is at Edinburgh. Our set-piece and maul is good and, as a No 8, it is good to have a solid front five in front of you.
“It was quite fun getting my first run-out last Friday and getting to know some of the boys and see how they play.
“They are trying to build a culture and a good squad here and, from what I have seen already, the players have a really professional attitude and Roddy Grant and Mike Coman are great leaders.”
Edinburgh go into their Guinness Pro12 opener against Leinster at Meggetland on Friday off the back of pre-season wins over Romania and Ulster. However, they know sterner tests are to come and – when not enjoying the Festival and getting his bearings around the city by foot – Manu has been working hard on the training field to adjust to the different style of rugby in the Northern Hemisphere.
He said: “There is a big emphasis on set-piece and the scrum over here and the pace of the game is not as fast, but the breakdown area is a lot more physical and there are more players who are good on their feet.
“I am just getting used to the pace of it and the type of tackles you need to make.
“I am a bit nervous [ahead of Friday] because there are a lot of good players around and I don’t think a guaranteed spot in the team is mine. I have just got to have a good week of training, put my best foot forward and, hopefully, be involved in the match.”
As mentioned, Manu’s partner has moved to Edinburgh with him while his brother, Vaka, will be turning out for Stirling County in the BT Premiership this season, having made his debut at the weekend.
Manu has just moved into a flat with former Highlanders team-mate Phil Burleigh and has also caught up with another former Highlander, John Hardie, a couple of times recently. Hardie, also 27, is in the mix to be named in Vern Cotter’s Scotland squad today for the Rugby World Cup.
If the back-row makes the cut and is in the final 31-man party, Manu believes he would not let anyone down.
“John is a physical player, but he can carry the ball as well and his breakdown work is pretty special also,” Manu said.
“It is hard to compare John to other players in the Northern Hemisphere for me, but I grew up with him, we played age-group rugby together and I obviously rate him highly, and he seemed to go alright in his Scotland debut last week.”