Fiji‘s preparations for the Rugby World Cup have taken another step forward today, as they have named a 38-man training squad for their upcoming fixtures against the Maori All Blacks and in the Pacific Nations Cup.
The squad, which will join together in camp on July 1st, will have almost two weeks together as a group before they host the Maori All Blacks in Suva, with the return fixture in Auckland coming a week after. The Flying Fijians’ Pacific Nations Cup commitments will then see them take on Japan in Kamaishi in the final week of July, before hosting Canada and Samoa in Suva over the first two weeks of August.
Following the conclusion of those five matches, Fiji coach John McKee will then make his final decision on the 31-man squad he will take to Japan for the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
Racing 92‘s Leone Nakarawa, Edinburgh‘s Viliame Mata and Harlequins‘ Semi Kunatani headline the group of forwards, whilst Bordeaux‘s Semi Radradra, La Rochelle‘s Levani Botia and Toulon duo Josua Tuisova and Filipo Nakosi standout among the backs.
Albert Tuisue and Alivereti Veitokani, who were impactful in London Irish’s successful bid for promotion to the Gallagher Premiership, are also included, as is their club teammate Manasa Saulo. The Newcastle Falcons quartet of Tevita Cavubati, Nemani Nagusa, Josh Matavesi and Vereniki Goneva, who are facing the prospect of next season in the Greene King IPA Championship, also made the cut.
There are a number of local players also included in the squad, many of whom have featured for on-island sides, such as the Fijian Drua in the National Rugby Championship and the Fijian Latui in the ongoing Pacific Showcase Series, with McKee glad to have a mix of players involved.
“Certainly there are very good local players who are challenging for positions in the Rugby World Cup team. It is also important time for them as they are currently part of the Swire Shipping Fijian Latui.
“Now is the time, with all planning in place, I am really looking forward to getting into camp with the players from July 1st. We know we have a lot of work to do between our assembly and travelling to Japan for our first game against Australia in the Rugby World Cup.
“Players have been slowly filtering back onto the island. I expect by the second week of June nearly all the players will be back with the exception of any French players who’s teams progress deep into finals.”
McKee has also opened the door for more local-based players and talented youngsters to be involved, should they impress enough in their respective opportunities.
“Players can be included at any time based on them showing outstanding form and fitness level. This can include locally based players playing in the Swire Shipping Fijian Latui or at the World Rugby Under-20 Championship.”
Placed in a pool with Australia and Wales, Fiji’s chances of making the quarter-finals might seem slim on paper, but they are consistently being talked up as the dark horse of the competition and if they can keep this group of players healthy and enjoy a good period of preparation prior to the tournament, there is no reason why they can’t go on to upset one of the big Tier 1 nations.
Fiji’s 38-man training squad:
Front Row: Leeroy Atalifo, Mesulame Dolokoto, Sunia Koto, Campese Ma’afu, Sam Matavesi, Eroni Mawi, Peni Ravai, Manasa Saulo, Luke Tagi, Tuapati Talemaitoga, Kalivati Tawake, Joeli Veitayaki, Tuvere Veremalua.
Second Row/Back Row: Tevita Cavubati, Johnny Dyer, Semi Kunatani, Mesulame Kunavalu, Temo Mayanavanua, Viliame Mata, Sikeli Nabou, Leone Nakarawa, Nemani Nagusa, Jale Railala, Api Ratuniyarawa, Tevita Ratuva, Albert Tuisue, Mosese Voka, Dominiko Waqaniburotu, Peceli Yato.
Half-backs: Frank Lomani, Nikola Matawalu, Peni Matawalu, Henri Senioli, Seru Vularika.
Inside Backs: Levani Botia, Sevanaia Galala, Josh Matavesi, Alivereti Veitokani, Jale Vatubua, Ben Volavola.
Outside Backs: Vereniki Goneva, Benito Masilevu, Kini Murimurivalu, Filipo Nakosi, Apisai Naqalevu, Waisea Nayacelevu, Patrick Osbourne, Semi Radradra, Eroni Sau, Metuisela Talebula, Joshua Tuisova, Setareki Tuicuvu.
Watch: Fiji have cut their defence coach, Peter Ryan
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