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Ravai braces for tough season with Reds

Flying Fijians and Queensland Reds prop Peni Ravai is hoping to take the learnings of a ‘dream’ 2023 into the new Super Rugby Pacific campaign as the competition for places in the Reds’ front row continues to heat up.

Ravai is heading into his second season at Ballymore after initially joining from French Top 14 outfit Clermont one year ago, before re-signing for a further season in August.

He has made himself at home with his wife and daughter in Buderim, on the Sunshine Coast, commuting south along the highway daily for training.

Peni Ravai 1

 

He amassed 14 Super Rugby caps in his maiden Super Rugby campaign following a debut in Round 1 against the Hurricanes – enough to earn a spot on the plane to France for Fiji in the Rugby World Cup.

At the tournament, Ravai and the Flying Fijians reached the quarter-finals for only the third time in the nation’s history and first time in 16 years.

“I’m excited to be back after what was a huge year of rugby last year. I’m glad to be back with the team once again,” Ravai told Queensland Reds Media.

Peni Ravai 2

“To come back from injury and get selected for Fiji in the Rugby World Cup squad was a big achievement for me.

“I hoped for the best and to play in a Rugby World Cup – it was my dream and that is what happened. 2023 was a dream come true.”

At 33 and with 50 international caps for Fiji, Ravai was clearly the most experienced of Queensland’s prop stocks in 2023.

Peni Ravai

In 2024, the offseason arrivals of capped All Blacks Jefferey Toomaga-Allen, who is Ravai’s junior by only eight months and Alex Hodgman, as well as exciting Junior Wallaby prospect Massimo De Lutiis, has transformed the Reds’ front row stocks into a position of strength for the side, with enviable depth.

Peni Ravai 2

Ravai believes the competition for places will benefit the unit but admits earning a spot in the team will be a challenge.

“There is a lot of competition but it’s up to the coaches (who they pick). As a player, I just need to do my job and prove myself and do all of the things that the coaches want from us. Hopefully from there, I’ll get selected,” he said.

“It’s tight selection across the front row – all of the props are good, young and mobile. Hopefully I get a chance to play.

“The level of competition will be good for us players. If you want to play every week, you have to move up and compete with each other to get a spot in the 15 or in the 23.”

Peni Ravai

Having started playing the game at six years old, Ravai also watched Super Rugby growing up on Viti Levu. His father, a staunch Crusaders fan at the time, watched too, and helped instil a hunger for southern hemisphere rugby.

Instead, Ravai’s career took him north, spending seven years in France. His time in the L’hexagone would see him ply his trade for Aurillac in the second division before earning 43 caps with Bordeaux and 38 with Clermont in Top 14.

“In Fiji, we love Super Rugby. My Dad was always a diehard fan of the competition, and his favourite teams were the Crusaders,” he said.

“I love Super Rugby. Growing up, it was a dream that one day I would be playing Super Rugby, but I moved to France instead until the opportunity to come back with the Reds came up last year.

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“So, a thank you to the Reds for coming in and for giving me that chance.”

Ravai will continue his preseason training before trial matches against the Western Force on February 3 and Waratahs in the Santos Festival of Rugby in Roma on February 10.

Reginald Chandar
Reginald Chandar
Head of News & Sports | news@fijilive.com

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