June 06, 2022
Flying Fijians coach Vern Cotter has named a strong 34-member squad for the World Rugby Pacific Nations Cup in Fiji next month.
The Pacific Nations Cup will be contested by the Flying Fijians, Australia A, Samoa and Tonga between July 2nd to the 16th.
10 players named in the squad are in line to debut for the national rugby team.
“The Fijian Drua players come to us battle-hardened after their impressive first season in Super Rugby Pacific, and they will compete fiercely for spots with those players returning from the French Top 14 and English Premiership Rugby,” said Cotter via zoom during the announcement at Rugby House today.
Skipper Levani Botia, returns to lead the team after winning the European Champions Cup with La Rochelle.
The eight front rowers in the squad consist of loosehead props Haereiti Hetet (Fijian Drua) and Eroni Mawi (Saracens), hookers Sam Matavesi (Northampton Saints), Tevita Ikanivere (Fijian Drua) and Mesu Dolokoto (Fijian Drua), and tighthead props Luke Tagi (Provence), Mesake Doge (Dragons) and Manasa Saulo (Fijian Drua)
The locks are Tevita Ratuva (Brive), Temo Mayanavanua (Lyon), Api Ratuniyarawa (Northampton Saints) and Drua duo Isoa Nasilasila and Ratu Leone Rotuisolia.
The backrow features big Albert Tuisue from London Irish (who also covers the lock position), Mesulame Kunavula (Edinburgh), captain Botia lining up alongside Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta and Rusiate Nasove of the Fijian Drua.
An all-Drua halfback trio of Frank Lomani, Simione Kuruvoli and Peni Matawalu have been named in the squad, with 42-cap Flying Fijians general Ben Volavola (Racing 92) and the returning Teti Tela (Fijian Drua) as flyhalfs.
Competing for a spot in the centres in the matchday 23 will be the Japan-based Tamanivalu (Toshiba), Vilimoni Botitu (Castres), experienced campaigner Waisea Nayacalevu (Stade Francais) and breakout Fijian Drua stars Kalaveti Ravouvou and Apisalome Vota.
The excitement machines on the wing will be Toulon star Jiuta Wainoqolo, the blockbusting Josua Tuisova (Lyon), Drua flyer Vinaya Habosi and Manasa Mataele (Western Force), one of Super Rugby Pacific’s leading line-breakers.
The two fullbacks rounding out the squad are Brive’s Setareki Tuicuvu and the Drua’s Ilaisa Droasese.
Droasese, Habosi, Vota, Ravouvou, Tamanivalu, Matawalu, Nasove, Cirikidaveta, Rotuisolia and Nasilasila are the 10 players in line for potential Flying Fijians debut in July.
Key figures in Semi Radradra, Peceli Yato, Viliame Mata, Meli Derenalagi, Kitione Salawa, Vilive Miramira, Samu Tawake and Peni Ravai have missed out due to injury.
The Flying Fijians play Tonga in their first game on July 2nd at the ANZ Stadium in Suva, Australia A on July 9th at Churchill Park, and Samoa on July 16th at Churchill Park in Lautoka
Flying Fijians July Squad: Haereiti Hetet, Eroni Mawi, Sam Matavesi, Tevita Ikanivere, Mesulame Dolokoto, Luke Tagi, Mesake Doge, Manasa Saulo, Tevita Ratuva, Temo Mayanavanua, Isoa Nasilasila, Ratu Leone Rotusolia, Apisalome Ratuniyarawa, Albert Tuisue, Mesulame Kunavula, Levani Botia, Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta, Rusiate Nasove, Frank Lomani, Simione Kuruvoli, Peni Matawalu, Ben Volavola, Teti Tela, Setareki Tamanivalu, Vilimoni Botitu, Apisalome Vota, Waisea Nayacalevu, Kalaveti Ravouvou, Jiuta Wainiqolo, Josua Tuisova, Vinaya Habosi, Manasa Mataele, Setareki Tuicuvu, Ilaisa Droasese.
By Noa Biudole