Folau Fainga’a says he’s proud of teammate and second cousin Tolu Latu for overcoming a rocky year and making it into the Rugby World Cup.
It was only four months ago, that Latu’s hopes of a maiden World Cup looked dashed after he was uninvited from a Wallabies camp over a drink-driving incident.
Latu missed three matches after being charged, two from a club stand-down and one to remain in Sydney for his court date.
He was set to be part of a Wallabies camp in Brisbane the day after the charge came to light but instead was immediately sent back to Sydney.
Those missed matches came after Latu had already served a controversial six-week ban for foul play against the Sunwolves in round two.
In all, Latu played just six Super Rugby matches this season but that proved enough for him to be given a Wallabies chance.
He showed strong form in his Test performances this year and remarkably comes into the World Cup as the likely first-choice hooker.
Fainga’a said he was proud to see Latu in the Wallabies mix after a challenging season.
“I always reach out to him every time I'm down in (Sydney), just to see how things are with him and how he's doing,” he said.
“I'm obviously very proud of how he's coped with everything and (how he) just brushed everything and just put his head down and worked hard to get himself to the place he is now.”
Fainga’a said their families were ecstatic when both were selected for the World Cup, after a childhood of running amok together in Sydney’s west.
“Everyone's overwhelmed, his mum and his family,” he said.
“We always got told not to be with each other because you always get up to no good.
“(We were) just getting in trouble, just never listening, always doing stuff we're not meant to be doing.”
There's no going easy on each other in training sessions, according to Fainga'a, despite their close connection.
“Yeah it's exciting times for our family, it's good to do it with my own blood cousin, he's pretty excited,” he said.
“We're into each other at training all the time, giving each other shit...just to drive us just to be better.”
Fainga’a is not sure yet whether his family will be able to make it over to Japan but he is confident their family home will be packed to the rafters for Wallabies games, watching he and Latu in action.
“Yeah, home will be filled every weekend, everyone tends to go home every weekend and crowd out the house,” he said.
“It'd be cool to try and get the old man or the old lady over here, it'd be pretty cool for them to witness a World Cup and a Test match overseas.”
The Wallabies travel to Sapporo on Wednesday and will name their team to take on Fiji on Thursday at 1pm AEST.
Australia takes on Fiji on Saturday September 21, kicking off at 1:45pm local, 2:45pm AEST, LIVE on Foxtel, Network Ten and via RUGBY.com.au RADIO.