Edinburgh Rugby’s Will Helu cannot wait to get his second Rugby World Cup campaign underway with Tonga when they take on Georgia in their Pool C opener in Gloucester on Saturday.
When winger Helu, 29, signed for the Capital side in the summer from Wasps it did not look likely that he would be adding to his 2011 World Cup appearance against Canada.
But he was handed a late call-up to the Tonga squad by head coach Mana Otai.
He played in the 21-16 warm-up win over Romania in Bucharest earlier this month – starting at outside centre – and he is keen to add to his 20 caps in the coming weeks.
As well as Georgia, Tonga will face New Zealand, Argentina and Namibia and, speaking from the squad camp, Helu said: “It was a bit of a shock to get the call-up I must admit. I was really enjoying pre-season with Edinburgh and getting to know the guys and the way that we play and then I got a call from the Tonga coaching staff.
“Whenever you are asked to represent your country it is a special moment and to have made the cut for the Rugby World Cup is extra special.
“I have really enjoyed being back with the Tonga guys again and I feel I have slipped back into things. I am quite an experienced player and know all of the players, so I was kind of able to hit the ground running.
“We are a proud nation and we know the things that we needed to work on in the last few weeks. It was good to get a warm-up match under our belt and now we cannot wait to get started.”
Tonga have played in six of the seven previous World Cups – not qualifying in 1991 – and they have never made it out of the pool stages.
In 2007 they defeated Samoa 19-15 and four years ago they caused a big shock by seeing off France 19-14 in New Zealand while they also defeated Japan 31-18.
They know this time around that their matches against Georgia this weekend and against Namibia on September 29 give them their best opportunities for victories.
On the Georgia match Helu said: “We know that Georgia are a good team who have been improving a lot in recent years, but we feel that we are a good side too. They will be physical up front, but we are ahead of them in the world rankings and if we stick to our structures and believe in our own game then I think we can get a positive result in our first game.”
Helu has kept in regular contact with Edinburgh and was delighted to see them record wins in their two opening Guinness PRO12 matches against Leinster and Treviso.
“To beat Leinster in the first match with a number of guys away with Scotland and myself with Tonga shows that we have good strength in depth at the club,” Helu said. “The young players really impressed me when I was there for the pre-season training and they have shown that they can come in and perform at the top level.
“To back up the Leinster victory with another over in Italy was important and I’m sure the guys will be enjoying a few days off now before they resume league matches early in October.
“For now my concentration is fully with Tonga, but when I do get back to Edinburgh in a few weeks’ time I am looking forward to making my mark for the club and Alan Solomons seems a really good coach to work for, a guy who can really motivate the squad and push us on.”