Nasi Manu's return to Tonga's national team after a battle with cancer in time for the Rugby World Cup will only inspire the Pacific team more, former teammate Aaron Smith said.
Smith, who played alongside Manu at the Highlanders until the former co-captain left in 2016 to play in Europe, says Manu's journey from diagnosis in October last year to a recovery and naming in the 'Ikale Tahi squad shows his strength of heart and mind.
"It just shows the character of the man," Smith said.
"He's a great guy on and off the field, great leader and great friend.
"When I found out the news he got cancer, it shocked us at the Highlanders and made us older boys very sad. But we knew, too, that anything he puts his mind to he achieves usually, as he did with the cancer. He dominated it.
"It's just good to see him back."
Smith said he hopes to catch up with Manu this week and believes his "old school" leadership will help Tonga as they look to reach their first Rugby World Cup quarter-final.
"You had to chop something off to keep him off the field, so that just proved how tough he was and he'd do whatever to play for you, and that just gains mana and respect off the bat."
The All Blacks and Tonga go to battle on Saturday in a final pre-World Cup Test in Hamilton.