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Nadolo in, Radradra out: Fiji name extended 33-man squad for test series against All Blacks

By Alex McLeod

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Fiji head coach Vern Cotter has named an extended 33-man squad ahead of next month’s two-match test series against the All Blacks.

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Plenty of players who featured in last year’s Autumn Nations Cup have been retained, including Leicester Tigers star Nemani Nadolo, who has been named in the squad alongside club teammate and fellow outside back Kini Murimurivalu.

The pair are one of many backline players – including Melbourne Rebels halfback Frank Lomani, Perpignan first-five Ben Volavola, Brive fullback Seta Tuicuvu, and French-based midfielders Levani Botia and Waisea Nayacalevu – who were involved in the makeshift European tournament and will travel to New Zealand.

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Sir John Kirwan expresses concerns over All Blacks midfield without Ngani Laumape
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Sir John Kirwan expresses concerns over All Blacks midfield without Ngani Laumape

In the forward pack, French-based loose forwards John Dyer and Kitione Kamikamica have both been retained, as has Edinburgh back rower Mesulame Kunavula.

The squad’s four locks – Leone Nakarawa of Glasgow Warriors, Albert Tuisue of London Irish, Tevita Ratuva of Scarlets, and Temo Mayanavanua of Lyon – were also part of the Autumn Nations Cup squad.

Similarly, front rowers Sam Matavesi (Northampton Saints), Mesu Dolokoto (Glasgow Warriors), Peni Ravai (Clermont), Eroni Mawi (Saracens) and ex-Maori All Blacks prop Haereiti Hetet (Bay of Plenty) have all kept their places in the squad.

However, Flying Fijians boss Cotter is without some of his biggest names for the test series, with the biggest omission being Bristol Bears star Semi Radradra, who is unavailable due to his involvement in the Premiership play-offs.

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In Radradra’s absence, Botia will captain Fiji against the All Blacks.

Another notable exclusion is powerhouse Lyon wing Josua Tuisova, who has missed out despite not being involved in this season’s Top 14 play-offs.

Elsewhere, Cotter has found room for many debutants, with the most prominent being Crusaders wing Manasa Mataele, Queensland Reds halfback Moses Sorovi, and French-based trio Peniami Narisia, Vilimoni Botitu, and Eneriko Buliruarua.

Fijian Sevens stars Onisi Ratave and Vinaya Habosi have also been released from the national sevens set-up little more than a month out from the Tokyo Olympics to be included in Cotter’s squad.

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In total, there are 14 players who play their club rugby in France, five each from England and Scotland, three from Australia and two from New Zealand, while there are four locally-based players.

Cotter said that although it was a difficult process bringing together a squad of players who are based around the globe, he was happy with the playing contingent he has named.

“It’s an exciting squad and a perfect opportunity for the players who have been training well and the exposure within the squad against other confirmed international players will be fruitful,” he said.

“We are looking forward to getting this group together and we will have to keep things simple.”

He added: “It was difficult to put the squad firmly together until players finished their season in Top 14 and the Premiership competition. We are very happy with the mix as we have some new players who will be joining us and will bring enthusiasm.

“Whatever happens we will get positive feedback from both games for our players to help us progress later for the World Cup in 2023.”

Cotter acknowledged the All Blacks would provide a stern challenge for his side, but he is hopeful Fiji will be able to build on their experience at the Autumn Nations Cup.

“The All Blacks will be very hard in the first test match but they will be even harder for the second test so we will need to be able to grow this group by keeping things simple and being together will be the main key to it,” he said.

“Its about kicking off from where we left during the Autumn Nations Cup in November last year. We finished on a really positive note in the United Kingdom against Georgia.

“We were frustrated not to play the other games because of COVID-19 and we will be looking forward to getting together and just kicking on.

“Our first job will be reviewing what we did against Georgia, how we can get better and with no bigger test then All Blacks to make sure we are fully focused and concentrating on our jobs.”

Fiji’s players and management will spend two weeks in a managed isolation facility in Christchurch before playing the All Blacks at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin on July 10 and then at FMG Stadium Waikato in Hamilton on July 17.

Fiji squad to face All Blacks in July

Props:

Peni Ravai
Eroni Mawi
Haereiti Hetet
Luke Tagi
Mesake Doge
Leeroy Atalifo

Hookers:

Sam Matavesi
Peniami Narisia
Mesulame Dolokoto

Locks:

Tevita Ratuva
Temo Mayanavanua
Leone Nakarawa
Albert Tuisue

Loose Forwards:

Mesulame Kunavula
Kitione Kamikamica
John Dyer
Peceli Yato

Halfbacks:

Frank Lomani
Mosese Sorovi
Simione Kuruvoli

First-Fives:

Ben Volavola
Teti Tela

Midfielders:

Levani Botia
Vilimoni Botitu
Waisea Nayacalevu
Eneriko Buliruarua
Onisi Ratave

Wings:

Nemani Nadolo
Vinaya Habosi
Manasa Mataele
Eroni Sau

Fullbacks:

Seta Tuicuvu
Kini Murimurivalu

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Nadolo in, Radradra out: Fiji name extended 33-man squad for test series against All Blacks

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