Rugby: Benetton players shave heads in support of Nasi Manu

Benetton rugby players have shown their support for former Highlanders captain Nasi Manu and his battle with testicular cancer by shaving their heads.

The 30-year-old, who plays for the Italian club, had an operation at a Treviso hospital in August to remove an abnormal growth, and is having chemotherapy sessions after having his testicle removed.

Benetton posted a video on social media showing the players, including Kiwi coach Kieran Cowley and New Zealand-born duo Dean Budd and Jayden Hayward, having their heads shaved.

"In every rugby locker room before a match, we talk about friendship, family and support. This gesture is not to let these be just rhetoric, but to show you that we are with you Nasi Manu," said the caption on their social post.

Manu said he was moved to tears when he first saw the video.

"Thanks to all of you for the support. When I saw the video I cried, you're just incredible! Give me the strength to continue on this difficult road. I love you."

Manu lead the Highlanders to their maiden Super Rugby title in 2015.
Manu lead the Highlanders to their maiden Super Rugby title in 2015. Photo credit: Getty

Former Waikato hooker Hame Faiva came up with the idea when Manu was diagnosed, but according to teammate Alberto De Marchi, it has taken time to happen due to a tour to South Africa and the November test window, they haven't had a chance.

"The idea came to us spontaneously," commented Alberto De Marchi.

"When we heard about Nasi's disease, we knew there would be times when the chemo was particularly hard to deal with, and so we decided we would all cut off our hair to let him know that we are rooting for him.

"We had planned to shave off our hair straight away. But then, unfortunately, the team was divided - some had international commitments, and others were in South Africa for the matches against Cheetahs and Kings. The distance made it difficult to coordinate everything, so we decided to postpone things until we got back, and that’s what happened."

Manu spent five years with the Highlanders, leading them to their maiden Super Rugby title in 2015. He's also enjoyed playing stints with Canterbury, the Crusaders and Edinburgh.