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Fiji may be forced to play Georgia at neutral venue on European tour

By Chris Jones
Nemani Nadolo /PA

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Vern Cotter’s Flying Fijians may have to play Georgia at a neutral venue due to COVID-19 rules on a European tour that will also see then face Wales and Spain with a squad likely to be missing players based in the Southern Hemisphere.

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Fiji Rugby Union chief executive officer John O’Connor has revealed the end-of-year Test match schedule and accepted travel and quarantine restrictions would shape the squad. “The November rugby Test matches are confirmed,” said O’Connor. “We will be playing three Test matches against quality opponents being Spain, Wales and Georgia. The FRU is currently working on the logistics and we are seeking solutions to ensure a strong outfit is assembled in anticipation of three rugged Test matches.”

O’Connor said the bulk of the squad head coach Cotter would be operating with is to come from European-based players to alleviate the stringent COVID-19 protocols and Tonga and Samoa are facing similar selection restrictions for their Autumn matches. “We might have to overlook for some players playing in New Zealand and Australia because of the mandatory 14-day quarantine period. We are keeping our options open:” added O’Connor. “The majority of the Flying Fijians team will be from the Northern Hemisphere though.”

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Fiji have a large contingent of key players operating in Europe’s top leagues with the French Top 14 featuring the likes of Josua Tuisova, Waisea Nayacalevu, Peceli Yato, Levani Botia, Tevita Ratuva , Ben Volavola, Olympic Games gold medallist Jiuta Wainiqolo and Leone Nakarawa .

O’Connor told Fiji Times the Test match in Georgia would only proceed pending World Rugby’s approval because the European nation is in the red zone of the COVID-19 pandemic.“We might play the Georgians at a neutral venue, however, World Rugby will advise us accordingly.”

Fiji will play Spain on November 6 in Spain at a venue and time to be decided by World Rugby, then Wales at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff on November 14 followed by Georgia.

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