Fiji Rugby’s 15s Head Coach Vern Cotter has named a powerful Flying Fijians touring squad to prepare for the upcoming Autumn Nations Cup in Europe later this month.
The 32 member squad will march into camp on 25 October in preparation to face France on 15 November, Italy on 21 November and Scotland 7 days later on 29 November at BT Murrayfield.
Flying Fijians will also play Portugal on 6 November as a warm up to the Autumn Nations Cup.
Competition will be fierce across all positions, with many of the Europe based players coming off the back of stellar seasons including Bristol Bears try scoring machine Semi Radradra, London Irish forward Albert Tuisue and Toulon powerhouse Josua Tuisova.
Blockbusting winger Nemani Nadolo also makes his return to international duties after announcing an early retirement last year.
Cotter has been monitoring all domestic competitions and says it’s been an exciting few weeks watching the Skipper Cup.
He says at the same time he’s had to also closely monitor all European rugby to then select and form a squad with solid experience and the potential to face big teams.
The touring squad welcomes 9 local based players Tevita Ikanivere, Samuela Tawake, Jone Koroiduadua, Chris Minimbi, Manueli Ratuniyarawa, Peni Matawalu, Simione Kuruvoli, Tuidraki Samusamuvodre and Serupepeli Vularika, who are part of the Skipper Cup and have been training together under the Fiji Rugby Academy.
“These players have the ability, with guidance from senior players, to become great Flying Fijians,” Cotter said.
“We certainly be demanding a lot from them with guidance by the senior ones in the squad,” Cotter added.
New Zealand based Waikato prop Haereiti Hetet, Northland forward Temo Mayanavanua and France based Kitione Kamikamica and Lekima Tagitagivalu are also expected to earn their first cap during the tour.
“Haereiti is an unknown player but his father isn’t, he’s the son of Joeli Veitayaki, somebody who is very well known,” Cotter mentioned.
“Haereiti has really impressed us with his performance as he can play both sides, left and right, and he is very excited about this opportunity,” Cotter added.
Cotter said he has injected a few of the experienced players in each position such as Leone Nakarawa who can guide the team when needed.
“We won’t be going far away from relying on Leone Nakarawa to help these young players in coping up with international rugby pressures so his arm around those players plus guidance from other experienced players will be very important,” Cotter said.
He said that Nadolo’s return is a boost to the team and he is looking forward to working with him during the tour.
“I know him well because he was at Montpellier and we have a strong relationship plus he has done well at Leicester Tigers in Premiership rugby.
“He has assured me that he is playing well and he really wants to play, we feel he’s motivated and Nadolo motivated is a monster,” Cotter added.
Cotter has kept his options open for the captaincy role and will only decide upon meeting everyone in the camp.
“We will sit down to explain what we want from them as our expectations are very high.
“We will then have a discussion with the senior players we’ve identified and from there make a decision.
The local based players are expected to fly out on the 24th of this month and Cotter says it will be straight into camp for business.
“I don’t talk a lot as rugby is played on the field and they are good rugby players so we just going to explain what we expect from them and have a
very simple approach to that game, drawing from their talent and using it in the best way possible,” Cotter said.
Fiji Rugby Chief Executive John O’Connor congratulated the team selected.
He, however, reiterated that due to COVID-19, there are still a lot of moving parts. Fiji Rugby is working really hard to confirm visa and flights for our local based players and this has been a great challenge due to boarder closure and availability and connectivity of flights.
O’Connor said “We are also dealing with the clubs on the release of our players and there could be changes to the squad if the situation requires so.”
He has, however, reminded the management of the Team and players that this is a great opportunity to showcase Fijian rugby.
“It is important that we perform at this high level since it will open new pathway and opportunities for the players and Fiji Rugby.
We also thank the Six Nations for agreeing to invite Fiji Rugby to be part of this special tournament. We are humbled by their invitation” said O’Connor.
The CEO also encouraged other local players to continue to work hard and perform at the Skipper and Vanua Competition since there will be more opportunities to represent the Flying Fijians. As highlighted by Head Coach Cotter, post COVID 19, we hope to select majority of the local based players and those based in our Region to represent Fiji in the Pacific Nation Cup next year so we continue to build depth in all position leading to the World Cup in 2023.
FIJI AIRWAYS FLYING FIJIANS 2020 TOURING SQUAD:
Eroni Mawi, Peni Ravai, Haereiti Hetet
Mesulame Dolokoto, Sam Matavesi, Tevita Ikanivere,
Samuela Tawake, Mesake Doge, Jone Koroiduadua,
Tevita Ratuva, Leone Nakarawa, Temo Mayanavanua, Chris Minimbi,
BACK ROW / UTILITY
Mesulame Kunavula, Kitione Kamikamica, Johnny Dyer, Albert Tuisue, Manueli Ratuniyarawa, Lekima Tagitagivalu,
Frank Lomani, Peni Matawalu, Simione Kuruvoli,
Ben Volavola, Tuidraki Samusamuvodre
Semi Radradra, Lepani Botia, Serupepeli Vularika, Jale Vatubua, Waisea Nayacalevu
Nemani Nadolo, Josua Tuisova,