Fiji 7s coaches Alifereti Dere and Etuate Waqa have named a newbie in their 16-member training squad minus Avenisi Vasuinubu for the Glasgow and London 7s tournaments.
Naitasiri winger Alipate Ratini comes in upon recommendation of Fiji Rugby head coach Inoke Male after an impressive showing with the Warriors during the trans-Tasman leg of the Pacific Rugby Cup in February.
The former Lelean Memorial School flyer was also part of the Fiji Under-20s squad to the Italy Junior World Cup last year.
He is joined by towering Leone Nakarawa, Aisake Katonibau, Niko Verekauta, Jimilai Naikadawa and 11 of the of the 12-man squad that played in Hong Kong and Japan.
Vasunuibu is the notable exclusion from the squad that played in the Asian leg.
Waqa said the selection was based on an extensive review of the players’ performances on and off the field, including training.
“Dropping players and picking new faces are part and parcel of the game. After every outing we have to make a decision relating to our overall objective,” Waqa said.
“We felt we needed new players to achieve that target and we decided it was for the best we bring in new faces for the final two tournaments.”
Katonibau was a late inclusion last month, called up for the injured Mitieli Nacagilevu, Vakadranu has been through the squad since the very start of the Series and Nakarawa was part of the 2010/2011 Series outfit.
The four including Verekauta, Waqa says inject experience – a factor he says is of importance into the crucial two tournaments which will determine the 2012 Series winners.
“Nakarawa is not new having come through the system. In fact he played in the last Series and is very much aware of what is expected of him.
“Ratini was recommended to us by Male. And Dere and I had a chance to look at videos of his games and we liked what we saw. So, we have decided to get him and gauge what he can offer us in terms of what we want to achieve.
“Verekauta, Katonibau and Vakadranu are all experienced players as well. They are not new to the game and come in with a lot of experience.”
The 16-man squad marches in for a 3-day training camp to begin next Tuesday at the Queen Elizabeth Barracks.
Digicel Fiji 7s squad:
Alipate Ratini, Joji Ragamate, Niko Verekauta, Ilai Tinai, Metuisela Talebula, Isake Katonibau, Sikeli Vuruna, Jimilai Naikadawa, Leone Nakarawa, Timoci Vakadranu, Waisea Nayacalevu, Nikola Matawalu, Nemani Nagusa, Levani Botia, Joeli Lutumailagi, Setefano Cakau.