Fiji’s preparations for taking part in the eight-team Autumn Nations tournament in Europe next month have hit serious problems with doubts over their planned training camp in France due to the country’s ongoing battle to contain COVID-19. Added to the logistical problems of ensuring new head coach Vern Cotter can meet up with his players for the first time to prepare for the tournament, there is now doubt over the availability of Olympic Sevens gold medallist Semi Kunatani after he was dropped by new club Castres.
The French Top 14 outfit issued a statement saying: “Castres Olympique regret to announce that Semi Kunatani did not meet the requirements of the regulatory medical examination and as provided for in the regulations of the National Rugby League.
“He can therefore not join the club. The OC regrets this situation and wishes Semi Kunatani the best.”
Kunatani had joined fellow countrymen Vilimoni Botitu and Osea Waqa at Castres, having signed from Harlequins in June.
The 29-year-old previously spent three years in the French Top 14 with Toulouse before moving to England and was expected to be named in the Fiji squad for the training camp later this month in France. Reports from Fiji suggest an alternative venue for the camp – which will be vital for the squad’s tournament preparations – is now being considered.
Fiji have been placed in a pool with France, Scotland and Italy for the Autumn Nations tournament.
Head coach Cotter has been based in New Zealand due to the pandemic since taking over from John McKee and has already lost Edinburgh No8 Viliame Mata, who is out for six to eight weeks with an ankle injury, while Fiji and Stade Francais prop Luke Tagi was sent off against Bayonne.
Key lock forward Leone Nakarawa only returned to Glasgow Warriors at the end of last month after an extended period in Fiji and is now being put through a specific training programme to get him fit for the eight nations tournament.
Danny Wilson, the Glasgow coach, said: “We now have him back in the country but he has to go through an isolation period which really, if we are being honest, gets him fit and healthy to go into the Fiji camp.”
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