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Fiji targeting England age grade star Nordli-Kelemeti

By Chris Jones
Ollie Sleightholme is challenged by Cameron Nordli-Kelemeti during an England U20 training session at Bisham Abbey Sports Centre on January 11, 2019 in Marlow, England. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

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Fiji are trying to convince promising Newcastle Falcons scrumhalf Cameron Nordli-Kelemeti to opt-out of the England system and boost their halfback options heading into the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France.

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The Fijian born scrumhalf moved to North Yorkshire on a scholarship from Suva to Terrington Hall Prep School designed to give opportunities overseas to talented players and was picked up by Falcons following a junior career with Malton & Norton RFC which produced Wales prop Tomas Francis and Exeter Chiefs lock Will Witty, who started his professional career with the Newcastle club.

Nordli-Kelemeti, 22-years-old, was promoted to the Falcons’ senior academy in 2018 having represented England Under-18s and England sevens in the Junior Commonwealth Games in 2017. Nordli-Kelemeti spent last season on loan to Championship club Jersey before returning to Kingston Park and has been give a run of games due to a scrumhalf injury crisis affecting South African Louis Schreuder, who will join Bath next season, veteran Micky Young and Sam Stuart.

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Dean Richards, the Falcons director or rugby, revealed Fiji had made contact about his young scrumhalf who has formed an effective halfback combination during the injury crisis with Will Haydon-Wood, the former Sedbergh School outside half who was in the same first XV as Scotland centre Cameron Redpath.

Richards told RugbyPass: “Cam has started far more games than he thought he would have this season and has improved the exposure he has received in that period of time. As a result, he is a far more confident and different player from the start of the season. Fiji have been communicating with us about Cam and the big question is if he wants to play for Fiji or gets the chance to play for an England side because he has English Qualified Player (EPQ) status.

“He has a great skills set and has worked incredibly hard on his scrumhalf position skills and has been given the opportunity of late and it is amazing how quickly players develop.”

Richards is able to be involved with the team on match days having completed his three-game ban after criticising the referee following the defeat last month by Exeter. Richards took the opportunity to stand amongst the Kingston Park fans during his ban and said: “It has been really interesting to hear the spectators’ perspective on things and what they look for. It is very rare that anyone from a rugby club board or the coaching team will sit amongst the crowd and it has been fascinating to discover how informed supporters are and how quickly they get to the right decision.

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“It has been good for the guys to do things in a different way on match days and has it impacted on results? You don’t know, but it has been good from other people’s perspectives.

“The fans are keeping the faith and they appreciate we have played some really tough games against teams like Saracens while we have had injury concerns in the squad and also disruptions caused by the pandemic. There have been very different issues but now we are back playing regularly and Will Haydon-Wood is a player who is willing to learn and has a long way to go and it has been good watching him develop this season.”

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