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Five Premiership fits for Fijians


Five perfect fits for Fijian prospects in the Gallagher Premiership

Among others, Edinburgh announced the signings on Monday of Fijian players Eroni Sau and Kalione Nasoko.

Sau recently made his debut for the country’s XVs side following a productive stint in the shorter format of the game, whilst Nasoko is the captain of the Gareth Baber-coached sevens team, who currently sit third in the HSBC World Sevens Series.

Mesulame Kunavalu has also been on trial at the Scottish club and RugbyPass understand that Amenoni Nasilasila would have been on his way to the Scottish capital if it were not for the legal proceedings being brought against him in Fiji.

The Scottish Rugby Union and Edinburgh have become adept scouters of talent in the Pacific in recent years with Viliame Mata the most recent success story, whilst Leone Nakarawa’s rise to global prominence happened at Glasgow Warriors a few seasons before that.

It’s an area where they have an edge on many of their English rivals, but the recent Pacific Combine has presented an opportunity for a number of players from Fiji to take on board some high-performance coaching and plump up their CVs in the hopes of earning a contract in the Gallagher Premiership.

We have taken a look at five of the leading players at the Combine and come up with some perfect fits for them in English club rugby.

Frank Lomani to Saracens

With Richard Wigglesworth possibly looking at the 2019/20 season as the final one of his career or at least moving into a smaller role, as Neil de Kock did previously, Saracens’ scrum-half depth could be tested. Ben Spencer may well be more involved with England in the next cycle, Henry Taylor’s career has unfortunately stalled due to a number of injuries and Tom Whiteley is the only other nine on the club’s roster.

Lomani has forced himself past Nikola Matawalu and Henry Seniloli to become Fiji’s starting scrum-half and was able to showcase his talents for the Barbarians at the end of last year. A stint at Saracens would certainly improve his conditioning, game management and defensive responsibility, all things which Fiji would prize highly when he is called up for international duty.

Eroni Mawi to Sale Sharks

If, as reported in South Africa on Monday, Steven Kitshoff is passing up a big-money offer from Sale in order to stay with the Stormers, Steve Diamond is going to be in the hunt for an alternative at loosehead. Sale value an efficient set-piece, but we understand they have been looking to improve their carrying options in that area.

Mawi is not the finished article in the front row yet, but he is someone who can hold down the loosehead side for Sale in conjunction with Ross Harrison, as well as giving the side from the north-west someone who can get them moving forward with the ball in hand. With Sale losing minimal front row resources during international windows, they can deal with Mawi’s occasional absences with Fiji.

Eroni Mawi and Luke Tagi, who is also looking for a contract, celebrate with the NRC trophy after winning the NRC Grand Final match between Fijian Drua and Queensland Country at Churchill Park. (Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images)

Mesulame Dolokoto to Leicester Tigers

The signing of Tatafu Polota-Nau was always going to be a short-term fix for Leicester, whilst Jake Kerr’s rise has put him squarely in the sights of Scotland. Bringing in a powerful carrier like Dolokoto would help give Leicester something they have been missing since Harry Thacker packed his bags and headed to Bristol, whilst there are the alternative options currently at the club that would mean the hooker doesn’t need to be rushed into action. He can instead work on his set-piece consistency before taking up a more regular role in the matchday 23s when he is organically ready to.

Thankfully for Dolokoto, he picked up his third cap for the Fiji in November, something which should now make it possible for him to secure a visa in the UK, should a Premiership club come looking. Like Mawi, he can pack a punch with the ball in hand for a tight five forward, something Leicester do miss on occasion, especially when Ellis Genge is away with England.

Veremalua Vugakoto to Newcastle Falcons

Newcastle have shown no caution about going after Fijian players before and they have benefitted from the likes of Vereniki Goneva, Nemani Nagusa, Tevita Cavubati and Josh Matavesi in recent seasons. The club are probably going to struggle to keep all three of Kyle Cooper, George McGuigan and Santiago Socino in the years to come, especially with Cooper beginning to attract the attention of the ‘bigger’ clubs, so Vugakoto could be an excellent fit for the Falcons.

At just 21 years of age, there is still plenty of work Vugakoto needs to do and with that strong trio of senior hookers in place for the moment and a number of Fijian players on the roster to help with the acclimatisation process, Newcastle could also be the perfect fit for him. Like Dolokoto, he also met the cap threshold for visas during the November internationals.

Caleb Muntz to Exeter Chiefs

This is unlikely to be a move that could happen until next year, with Muntz, 20, currently involved with the Fijian U20 and Warrior sides and has yet to win his first senior cap. That could well change after the Rugby World Cup, though, at which point he would be an intriguing prospect to add a different dimension to Joe Simmonds and help ease the burden on the veteran Gareth Steenson.

The structure that Exeter play with is going to be vastly different to what Muntz is used to with Fijian representative sides and growing up in New Zealand, so it could be a nice fit for rounding out his game and giving Fiji a long-term fly-half prospect. If he goes down the Fijian Drua route, he risks then being seen as a full-back when or if a move to Europe materialises, just as it has for former Drua fly-half Alivereti Veitokani.

Watch: Fiji 7s team thrown into chaos with off-field issues

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Five perfect fits for Fijian prospects in the Gallagher Premiership
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