It will be one of the proudest moments of Siale Piutau’s life when he leads out Tonga to play England at the Sapporo Dome on Sunday. But the day will not be without sadness.
The 33-year-old lost his older sister Ema to stomach cancer earlier this year, and she is never far from his thoughts.
“There are still some family members trying to get to grips with what happened and there’s definitely a void there,” he said. “She came to the two other World Cups I played in and I will be trying my best to honour her by playing well.”
One of 10 children, Ema was a lawyer in Auckland. She was diagnosed just before her 38th birthday last November, and died in April.
Siale, pictured above, and his brother Charles, the former New Zealand international who played alongside him for the Bristol Bears, flew home for the funeral.
Piutau, with 39 caps, is the most experienced member of the Tonga squad. On leading his country into the tournament, he said: “It’s a great honour but it also comes with great responsibility.”