Samu Manoa doesn’t come across as someone who is easily impressed.
The USA Eagles wrecking ball of a back-rower has demolished most obstacles in his path since moving to England’s high-flying Northampton Saints two years ago.
He has arguably grown into the club’s most indispensable player, this year scooping both the players' and supporters' player of the season awards and forging a solid reputation around the Aviva Premiership in the process.
But the quality of some of the additions at Franklins Gardens this season have even left the giant Californian somewhat in awe of the talent surrounding him.
“This year we’ve got a squad,” he said, speaking last week in the grounds of the prestigious Stowe School where Saints were holding a summer academy. “I think we’re going to get places this year with the players that we’ve got.”
The players Northampton have got now include Wales winger George North and England’s New York-born prop, Alex Corbisiero, who both cemented their places as global stars of the game with outstanding performances on the British and Irish Lions tour to Australia this summer.
Manoa’s experience in this star-studded environment is something that can only benefit the Eagles as he joins the squad to prepare for two crucial World Cup qualifiers against rivals Canada.
“If they need some help on some stuff…I’ll just put in my little two cents and see if it works,” said Manoa, who has just come back into the Eagles set-up after a lengthy period away from the squad. His match against Ireland was his first since 2010.
“I had to get used to being back to play with the boys, but it was good to get back. It wasn’t really easy, but it wasn’t really hard.”
The first game against Canada takes place in Charleston on August 17 and the Eagles will then travel up to Toronto for the return fixture on August 24.
Manoa admits he knows very little about the opposition after not facing them in recent years, but Eagles fans will be pleased to hear that he still plans to bring his trademark physicality to the fixtures.
“I’m not going to back off. When we play Canada, we’ve just got to give it what we got…we’ve just got to play as a squad. Work hard. Do all the simple stuff right and cut down on the mistakes. Then we’ll win the game."
The recent game against Ireland gave him a chance to get to know some of the USA players he was less familiar with and he is already impressed with several aspects of the side.
“We’ve got a good back line. We’ve got good hardworking forwards…we’ve got a lot of good ball skills and a couple of good hitters in the squad.”
Manoa appeared confident that there would be solid chemistry in a back row union that includes Todd Clever and Scott LaValla.
“Those two have got their own way of playing, but it’s easy to adapt to players when you know how they play. We’ll see how it goes when we play next week.”
The Saints star stopped short of guaranteeing World Cup qualification for the Eagles, but said he thought they would make the tournament in England in 2015.
“I like how [Head Coach Mike] Tolkin is running everything. I like the system he is running with the squad and I see the team getting better now than it was before. It’s going good right now for the US team and…we can get some places with the right players.”
Eagles players plying their trade abroad continue to raise awareness in the rugby world of the talent pool that the US has to offer the game, especially from within the country’s sizable Polynesian community.
“There’s a lot of Polynesians out there with talent that nobody has heard of yet,” said Manoa, noticeably enthused. “There’s a lot out there right now that can play at this level, but nobody has seen them before.”
Those who hadn’t seen Manoa at Northampton before got a chance to see him play when he was selected for the Barbarians in a high-profile warm-up game against the British Lions in Hong Kong this summer.
“It was a good experience. The first time in Hong Kong. The first time playing for the Baa-Baas…it’s another check on my list of things to do.”
And as his list of things to do in rugby gets shorter, the question remains, will we see more like him? Manoa’s answer is unequivocal.
“Yeah. Probably better man.”