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Cotter still in remote control as Fiji name team for Spain

By Chris Jones
PA

Trending on RugbyPass

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Vern Cotter has revealed he is still fully involved in preparing the Fiji team for their European tour which starts against Spain at Estadio Central UC in Madrid on Sunday despite being 11,000 miles away.

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Travel restrictions have meant head coach Cotter and his assistants have not been able to link up with the squad which is being looked after by Gareth Baber, who led the Fiji Sevens to the defence of their Olympic gold medal in Tokyo. Baber is supported by ex-Ireland captain Rory Best and former Scotland internationals Duncan Hodge and Richie Gray.

With Cotter still in New Zealand, he has been studying videos of training and discussing selection with Baber who will join Edinburgh as an assistant coach after the games with Spain, Wales and Georgia.

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Cotter said “It’s been different liaising from a distance but things have been well prepared by Coach Gareth and his team and from my perspective, I have been talking with Gareth around team selection and how the team should play at certain parts of the game. I have been looking at all the training content and videos which the coaches have sent through and I’m sure things are going well”.

Cotter is backing Waisea Nayacalevu in his role as captain and added: “I think it’s an exciting time for the players and staff involved and the whole idea and objective is to improve and get better. I know everybody is focusing on the World Cup in 2023 and there is a great opportunity for players who are playing their first game and those who are taking leadership roles.

“There are a couple of key focuses such as making sure that we keep the ball and don’t give it away to Spain as they have got an experienced forward pack with the majority of them featuring in the France PRO D2. I assume they will defend the mauls very well so we just need to have a good variation.”

Baber has enjoyed shifting over to 15s although he has key members of his sevens squad in the Flying Fijians side to take on Spain in Madrid which has helped him bed in with a new group. Baber told RugbyPass: “The expectation for the Flying Fijians is that as a coaching staff we honour what Vern and his staff put together. I will speak regularly with Vern but he is conscious we have to get on with it and tests matches come along very quickly with a lot of information that needs to be absorbed. We are going to have to build an environment very quickly to deliver in those three matches.

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“We are spending two weeks in Spain and one week in Wales. We flew into Madrid to play Spain, then fly back to Wales and then back to Madrid to play the final test against Georgia on November 20.

“I like operating with Fijians and people don’t realise the quality of person you are dealing with, particularly in situations where others would say “you can’t do that”. If something happens then the Fijian social psyche is “now we rise up” and find something that wasn’t there before. Having your back against the wall.”

Flying Fijians squad vs Spain

Eroni Mawi
Sam Matavesi
Mesake Doge
Tevita Ratuva
Temo Mayanavanua
Leone Nakarawa
Mesulame Kunavula
Albert Tuisue
Nikola Matawalu
Ben Volavola
Aminiasi Tuimaba
Vilimoni Botitu
Waisea Nayacalevu {c}
Jiuta Wainiqolo
Setarki Tuicuvu

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Reserves

Henry Spring
Peni Ravi
Leeroy Atalifo
Api Ratuniyarawa
Viliame Mata
Masivesi Dakuwaqa
Josua Tuisova
Eroni Sau

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