Rugby is much more than just a game for All Black powerhouse prop Ofa Tuungafasi.
It has also proven to be a financial lifeline for his family.
Tuungafasi will travel to Japan on Monday with the 30 other members of coach Steve Hansen's squad who are seeking a staggering third successive Rugby World Cup triumph.
The All Blacks wrap up their home preparations for the tournament against Tonga in Hamilton this afternoon, with the Blues star to start the test against his birth country from the bench.
The Tongan-born prop heads to Asia almost 14 years after relocating to New Zealand with his family; which includes his mum, dad and 11 brothers and sisters.
His father represented Tonga in the mid-1980s; including at the 1987 Rugby World Cup, five years before the future All Black was born.
Aside from that, and knowing of Jonah Lomu due to his Tongan roots, rugby was barely on his radar when his family relocated here in early 2006.
But as he experienced first-hand the hardships of life in his new home and witnessed the sacrifices made by his father for his siblings, Tuungafasi made a pledge as a teen to turn the early promise he showed in the 15-man code after taking up the game into something which would benefit his family long-term.
"That is when I started dreaming of becoming an All Black," he told the Weekend Herald.
"The reason was there was 12 of us [children] and dad was the only one working. And it was a real big struggle at home . . . it was tough growing up.
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"I wanted to help out my family, especially on the financial side of things. That is what really drove me to become an All Black . . . I knew the opportunities that I could give myself and to help my family.
"What drove me at the beginning was being able to support my family financially."
Family means everything to Tuungafasi.
His has the names of all of his siblings proudly tattooed on his left arm.
After vowing to play for the All Blacks, he also made a pledge to eventually buy his parents a home. He has achieved both of those goals.
Tuungafasi couldn't speak English when he arrived for his first day at school in 2006 in Mangere, South Auckland.
His teenaged sweetheart, Emma – who he is now married to and has three daughters with – was among those who helped him both settle into secondary school and get learn English.
She has also been his rock away from the field; cheering him on as he first wore the silver fern with the New Zealand Under-20 team four years after moving here, and then the making the Blues a year later.
In 2017 – a year after his All Black test debut - she spoke of her husband's unflinching schoolboy desire to play for his family in an article on the Parenting Place's website, saying: "I will always remember asking him one day, 'What do you want to be when you grow up?' and he said, 'I want to be an All Black and I want to buy my mum and dad a house'.
"I thought he was crazy. But a few years later, he did become an All Black. And not long after that, he bought his mum and dad a house. Seeing him achieve these goals makes me excited for the future and what's in store."
She has also been on hand to help him through tougher times in his career – most notably the heartbreak of missing out on selection for the All Blacks' 2015 Rugby World Cup squad.
Tuungafasi was a member of the squad which travelled to Apia in the build-up to the World Cup for the All Blacks' historic first test in Samoa. While he didn't make the match 23, he still held out hopes of making that year's World Cup.
That dream was dashed by a phone call he received from assistant coach Ian Foster shortly before the 31-man team was named.
"I still remember to this day, driving on the motorway, the exact area I was driving when I got the call," Tuungafasi, who was still living at home with his parents at the time, said.
"It was an emotional time."
Eight months after missing that selection, Tuungafasi's emotions went full circle with the All Blacks.
In May 2016 he was named in the squad for three mid-year tests against Wales, making his debut in a 46-6 win at Dunedin's Forsyth Barr Stadium. He has gone on to earn 29 test caps.
And despite being a squad regular since then, given the strong propping stocks at Hansen's call this year, he revealed he feared fielding another dreaded 'thanks, but no thanks' call from team management before the team to travel Japan was named at midday on August 28.
"I was having a look at my phone to make sure I didn't get a call before 12 o'clock," Tuungafasi confided.
"I was really nervous. I was on the road and had just finished a gym session and I was trying to find where I could watch the live [announcement] . . . but I couldn't find anything.
"I was waiting and waiting on my phone and I didn't get a phone call on my phone before 12 o'clock which was a good sign. And after 12 my phone started going off from family and friends . . . that's how I found out.
"My wife . . . she was crying . . . it was a special time. My mum and my dad were very [emotional]. It was a really emotional time and moment."
Tuungafasi will join an exclusive club when he gets on the field in Japan.
His father Mofuike Tuungafasi played for Tonga in the innaugural Rugby World Cup hosted by New Zealand and Australia in 1987.
At the last World Cup, four players emulated their dads in playing on rugby's highest stage; England's Owen Farrell (father Andy played in 2007 Rugby World Cup), Wales' Ross Moriarty (father Paul played in 1987), Ireland's Luke Fitzgerald (father Des played in 1987) and Uruguay's Agustin Ormaechea (father Diego played in 1999).
"[After my dad's appearance] it is a dream to be involved and play at a World Cup," Tuungafasi said.
"To be able to play in the World Cup is just special. And to be able to play at one for the All Blacks, a team that any rugby player in the world would like to be play for or against . . . is really special.
"I am very looking forward to what lies ahead. I am stoked to be here."
It won't just be everyday All Black supporters cheering on Tuungafasi and his teammates at the World Cup, with the 27-year-old saying his biggest fans – Emma and their three children – are also likely to head to Japan at some stage during the tournament.
Signed with New Zealand Rugby through to 2021, Tuungafasi has studied social work, with a focus on young people.
Also away from the field, he converted to Islam earlier this year, having been brought up in a devout Catholic home.
Talking about his religious switch is currently a no-go zone for Tuungafasi.
But in late March he and fellow Muslim All Black, Sonny Bill Williams, made an emotional visit to Christchurch Hospital to visit survivors of the Christchurch mosque shootings.
Last week the pair were among a group of All Blacks who met with other survivors and their families.
While he is not talking about his religious switch, what he won't be silenced on is what the All Black jersey means to him and how playing for his adopted country has opened up avenues that benefit him and his family.
"For myself, the legacy of the jersey and the people who have worn it before means a lot to me," he said.
"I don't think it has changed me. But it has taught me a lot of things like being able to be grateful [to things we can achieve]. You just have to look at the numbers of players in New Zealand who all have that one dream to be in this room [with the All Blacks] and wear that jersey.
"For me to be able to get that opportunity . . . I am just grateful to be here and be able to wear that jersey."
And with the likes of Ireland, England, Wales, Australia and South Africa – who the All Blacks open their cup campaign against on September 21 – out to derail their hoped-for cup defence, he said the biggest thing that had been installed in him since first donning the black jersey had been a never say die attitude on the field.
"Being in this environment really teaches me about not letting my mates down," he said.
"When you are out there, just to keep going ... knowing not to let my mate down who is next to me. I hate losing."
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