Rugby giant Emmanuel Meafou is set to turn his back on the Wallabies and pledge allegiance to France after being overlooked by Australian Super Rugby teams.
Standing 203cm and weighing a mammoth 145 kilograms, the lock has made a home for himself with French powerhouse Toulouse.
Starting his sporting career playing rugby league in Ipswich and Brisbane, Meafou was part of the Melbourne Rebels academy but was never offered a full-time contract.
He was also one of five athletes picked as part of the NFL’s International Player Pathway program and given a place at the IMG international academy in Florida, set to become a defensive lineman.
But his first love was rugby and he walked away from potentially millions to join Toulouse in 2019.
Now 23, Meafou feels his adopted country is where his future lies.
“I want to play for France,” Meafou told Le French Rugby Podcast.
“France is definitely on my radar and there’s been a little bit of discussion around it and I’m working towards getting my passport.
“I’ve been here now for over three years so I would definitely love to play for France.”
Rebels and Wallabies back-rower Rob Leota knew Meafou as a teenager and said he was a big talent.
“I played under 20s with Manny for Victoria and also against him during high school when he played for Queensland,” Leota told AAP.
“I got pretty tight with him and we’ve stayed in touch and he’s been doing awesome over there.”
Leota said it was unfortunate that there was a lot of competition in Meafou’s position when he was in Melbourne.
“It was pretty tough and we were very young and were trying to find our own way and he saw his opportunity in France and took it,” Leota said.
“It would be pretty cool if Manny was to come back and he would be a big asset but France would be really lucky to have him because he’s been killing it over there.”
Early last year Leota signed a letter of intent to accept a big-money deal to play with French club Pau, and reached out to Meafou about the move.
But the 25-year-old flanker opted to accept a revised offer from Rugby Australia and the Rebels and ended up making his Wallabies debut, playing four Tests.
“It was a really great year for myself and a lot of it coming unexpected, which is I think was the best thing about it,” Leota said.