Fiji head coach John McKee has named a 32-man squad for next month’s World Cup in Japan, with one player to be omitted in the lead-up to the tournament.
The team, which consists of 18 forwards and 14 backs, will be captained by experienced loose forward Dominiko Waqaniburotu.
There are few surprises throughout the side, as 17 players return from the 2015 campaign, with five of those players – Vereniki Goneva, Kini Murimurivalu, Campese Ma’afu, Leone Nakarawa and Waqaniburotu – will be appearing in their third World Cup.
Five players from the country’s National Rugby Championship side, the Fijian Drua, have been named, with new Melbourne Rebels signing Frank Lomani headlining the quintet of local talent.
Loosehead prop Eroni Mawi, hookers Ratu Vere Vugakoto and Mesulame Dolokoto, and loose forward Mosese Voka are the other members of the Drua who will travel to Japan.
The remainder of the talent-laden squad are based in Europe with English and French clubs, with notable names such as Semi Radradra, Ben Volavola and Waisea Nayacalevu all featured.
Four members of Fiji’s gold medal-winning sevens side from the 2016 Rio Olympics – Josua Tuisova, Viliame Mata, Semi Kunatani and Nakarawa – have also been included.
McKee has retained two pairs of brothers in his truncated squad, with Sam and Josh Matavesi joined by Filipe Nakosi and Tuisova.
The significant reduction in squad size sees 18 players released from the 50-man preliminary squad named for the Pacific Nations Cup, with fan favourite Patrick Osborne among those to have missed the cut.
McKee said his side has been presented with a big opportunity to impress on the world stage, and challenged his players to make a name for themselves in a tough pool, which sees the Flying Fijians line up alongside Australia, Wales, Georgia and Uruguay.
“I wish the players selected well and remind them of the responsibility they must take on in representing Fiji in a Rugby World Cup,” he said.
“With 35 days until our opening match against the Wallabies, now is the time to step our preparation up in the final phase to ensure we put ourselves in the best position to achieve our performance goals at the World Cup.”
With a balanced mix of experience and youthfulness, McKee was confident of his side springing an upset in making the quarter-finals for just the third time in the nation’s history.
“I am very pleased to announce a group of players to represent Fiji at the World Cup, which I believe has the potential to challenge for a place in the play-offs from Pool D,” he said.
“With selections made, players can focus completely on their preparation for the World Cup and being the best player they can be for the team and for Fiji.
“This is an exciting time for these men who have been selected for the Flying Fijians heading to the World Cup in Japan. They must not let this opportunity to do something special for Fiji slip by.”
Fiji have a 10-day camp from today before they fly to New Zealand in preparation for their clash against Tonga in Auckland as part of the Pasifika Challenge II at Eden Park on August 31.
The squad will then reassemble in Nadi on September 2 before they depart for Japan four days later.
The Flying Fijians’ World Cup campaign kicks off against Australia in Sapporo on September 21.
Fiji’s World Cup 32-man squad (one to be omitted):
Ratu Vere Vugakoto
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