“Representing Tonga means everything to me, because you’re representing your family and all those people back home.”Valentino Mapapalangi
Valentino Mapapalangi is hopeful the upcoming autumn internationals will provide the back-rower a chance to get much-needed minutes on the pitch after an interrupted start to the 2018/19 season with injury.
Mapapalangi has been included in the Tonga squad for their upcoming internationals against Wales and Georgia, which the Tigers back-rower admits “means everything” to him as a proud Pacific Islander.
“I’ve had a few injuries this year, which set me back, but I’ve been training hard and hopefully I get even more opportunity during these Tests to play and show some form,” he said.
“Representing Tonga means everything to me, because you’re representing your family and all those people back home.”
The rugby league world has recently been introduced to the pride and passion of Tonga’s thirst for international sport, which Mapapalangi says only shows what he and his international team mates have known along about the pride and passion of their countrymen.
"Everybody back home is just crazy about it and so proud of our country,” Mapapalangi said.
“Look at the rugby league at the moment and just how much support there is for the boys, it means everything to Tongan people and it’s really special to be able to do it for them.”
“I really look up to Sione, he’s a class player and I try to work at his level in training and games."Valentino Mapapalangi
As well as both international fixtures, Tonga will face the French Barbarians during the international window and the 25-year-old says the squad is aiming for victory in each fixture.
“We want to win all three games,” he said.
“With a World Cup coming up next year, we want to be winning and getting in form as a group when we come together.”
Fellow Tongan Tigers; David Feao, Telusa Veainu and Sione Kalamafoni have not been included by Tonga, however the latter remains a key influence over Mapapalangi at both club and international level, on and off the pitch.
“I really look up to Sione, he’s a class player and I try to work at his level in training and games,” said Mapapalangi.
“To work with him at Tigers is really great and I enjoy it, especially as he’s a big influence and leader here at the club for the squad, especially the Islander boys, on and off the pitch.”
Mapapalangi linked up with his Tonga team mates after featuring from the Tigers bench in last weekend’s narrow loss to Saracens and will return to Leicester later this week ahead of Saturday’s second Premiership Cup fixture of the season against Worcester at Welford Road.