A healthy-again Fiji are finally all set to make their belated first appearance in the Autumn Nations Cup, coach Vern Cotter naming his side to face Georgia in the seventh-place playoff this Saturday at Murrayfield versus Georgia.

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Cotter had previously named an XV to face France in the opening round on November 15 before that game planned for Vannes was cancelled due to an outbreak of Covid-19 in their ranks which subsequently led to the cancellation of other group games versus Italy and Scotland. 

Now, though, Fiji have received a clean bill of health and Cotter has named an Autumn Nations Cup side containing two changes from the XV initially chosen to face the French, skipper Semi Radradra for coming in for Waisea Nayacalevu at midfield and Temo Mayanavanu replacing Kitione Kamikamica in the pack. 

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Dylan Hartley and Jamie Roberts discuss the latest Autumn Nations Cup action

Thrilled to finally be cleared to play a game at the tournament, Cotter told the Fiji Rugby Union website: “What we have lived through is difficult and in this kind of situations people grow and become better individuals and they have time to think and reflect. We have been able to do that as individuals and also as a team.

“We are stronger, we missed ten days but when we look at each other now, you can see the message passing in everybody’s eyes that we have been through something difficult and the health of our players was paramount from the start. We need to recognise that this isn’t been easy for the players and if they get out on the field to play this weekend, it’s an achievement just on itself.

“To be fair it [the cancellations] hasn’t bothered the players. The players are focused on playing for the Flying Fijians and putting on the white jersey that they are incredibly proud off together with representing their country. It’s an exciting blend of experience and young players who want to establish themselves as Flying Fijians.”

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Nine players will earn their first cap for the Flying Fijians. Uncapped flankers Johnny Dyer and Mesulame Kunavula, together with lock Temo Mayanavanua, have been named in the starting line-up while Tevita Ikanivere, Haereiti Hatet, Samuela Tawake, Chris Minimbi, Manueli Ratuniyarawa and Simione Kuruvoli are included on the bench.

The halves combination of Frank Lomani and Ben Volavola is retained, while Nemani Nadolo is on the left-wing and will assist Volavola with the kicking. Josua Tuisova will be on the right wing while Radradra and Levani Botia will control the midfield and full-back Kini Murimurivalu will guide the team from the back. Cotter added: “We have a very established backline who have played together for many tests and I expect them to be lethal if given quality possession.

“We know Georgia is tough and they have been playing plus improving because they are part of good competition. They played well against Ireland recently so the battle will start up front. The forwards are the first group that I’m really concerned about because we know they will be going to drive our lineouts and dominate our scrum and attack when we have the ball so we can’t get the ball out to our exciting backline.

“We are aware of that and the first challenge is to be very attentive and work hard to become effective and then of course once we do that, we need to find space and we need to have Semi Radradra, Nemani Nadolo and Josua Tuisova with the ball in hand and a little bit of room. If we can do that than our game will be the game we want.”

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FIJI (vs Georgia, Saturday)
1. Peni Ravai
2. Samuel Matavesi
3. Mesake Doge
4. Tevita Ratuva
5. Temo Mayanavanu
6. Johnny Dyer
7. Mesulame Kunavula
8. Albert Tuisue
9. Frank Lomani
10. Ben Volavola
11. Nemani Nadolo
12. Levani Botia
13. Semi Radradra
14. Josua Tuisova
15. Kini Murimurivalu

Reserves
16. Tevita Ikanivere
17. Haereiti Hetet
18. Samuela Tawake
19. Chris Minimbi
20. Manueli Ratuniyarawa
21. Simione Kuruvoli
22. Seru Vularika
23. Waisea Nayacalevu

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