Roosters twist emerges in fresh reports about Joey Manu's rugby switch from NRL

The Kiwi international has made his intentions clear about a switch to rugby union.

Joey Manu could be back playing for the Roosters in the NRL earlier than expected amid fresh reports about his likely switch to rugby union after this season. The Kiwi international has made no secret of his desire challenge himself in the 15-a-side code and was expected to sign a multi-year deal with a French rugby club after revealing earlier this month that he was "most probably" leaving at the end of this season.

However, News Corp reports that talks to join French rugby are now off the table and Manu has been convinced to sign with Japanese League One side Toyota Verblitz - coached by former All Blacks coach and World Cup winner Steve Hansen. It means if Manu does join the Japanese outfit for two seasons, he would only miss one full season of the NRL in 2025.

Pictured here, Joey Manu celebrates with Roosters teammates.
Joey Manu would be able to return to the Roosters sooner than expected if he signs for a Japanese rugby club. Pic: Getty

With the Japanese club rugby season running between December and May, it could pave the way for Manu to return to the NRL from about round 10 in 2026. That would mean the New Zealand superstar would miss less than half the season if he were to return to the Roosters and realise his dream of finishing his career at the TriColours.

Joey Manu wants to finish footy career at Roosters

Manu has indicated he would only return to the NRL with the Roosters and wants to play "a few more years" with the club after his stint in rugby. "I hope I get to finish my career here or get a few more years here," Manu said this month. "I came here when I was 16. So to give back to the club, the fans, the members and all that, would be special. They kick-started my career and hopefully I get a few more years in."

Roosters captain James Tedesco's contract comes up at the end of next year and depending whether or not it's extended, it could offer Manu an opportunity to return to his beloved club at fullback. Even if that doesn't eventuate, the Roosters would no doubt welcome Manu back with open arms in 2026, if they were able to fit him in under their salary cap.

The superstar centre was electric in the Roosters' round one win over Brisbane in Las Vegas, scoring one try and setting up another with a piece of absolute magic. Manu was controversially overlooked in the Dally M voting for that match, however, with eyebrows raised after Broncos halfback Adam Reynolds received a point in a losing side.

Manu almost missed the Las Vegas blockbuster against the Broncos due to the birth of his first child Laylia. The Kiwi international flew out of Sydney later than the rest of the squad so he could be by his wife Ty's side during the couple's special moment.

The Roosters star explained this month that part of his desire to switch to rugby was around personal and professional growth. "I just love the challenge of being uncomfortable," Manu said. "I really feel like that's where you grow as a person and player, being challenged.

"It's not that I'm not being challenged here. But it's been a while since I've been here. I've been rusted into the spot for a while. But learning a whole new game and it's just something different and (to) also experience as well."

Seen here, Roosters star Joseph Manu.
Roosters star Joseph Manu has all but confirmed he will switch from the NRL to rugby union after this season. Pic: AAP

Roosters coach adamant Spencer Leniu is not racist

Manu's Roosters head into Sunday's round two clash against Manly at 4Pines Park reeling after the eight-week ban to Spencer Leniu for calling Ezra Mam a "monkey". Roosters coach Trent Robinson delivered a passionate response to the NRL judiciary ban on Wednesday and backed up Leniu's insistence that he never meant to use the term in a racial manner.

"He is not racist," Robinson said. "His use of language was on trial. "This is a language issue, this is common between people of all ages in sport or in the playground... It's not because they're racist or they're trying to put power there.

"It's banter between guys and I'm not saying it's right. But we need to change the language with which we speak to each other. To call Spencer a racist is so far from the truth... If you think that an immigrant from parents from Samoa and New Zealand and then Mt Druitt is trying to put someone down through power, then we're way off the mark."

with AAP

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