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McKee: Toulouse excellent for Fiji

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'Toulouse camp a good opportunity to take stock of Fiji's state of physical and mental fitness'

Top 14’s week off allowed Fiji to comfortably host their latest training camp in Toulouse, their adopted home in France for European gatherings. 

It was the third time since November 2017 that the Flying Fijians assembled in the Pink City and their aim on this occasion was to take stock as their World Cup pool – featuring matches against Australia, Wales, Georgia and Uruguay – moves closer. 

“We wanted to bring together European players to put our work plan in place and to achieve what we care about,” explained Fiji’s coach John McKee in the Friday edition of Midi Olympique, the French rugby newspaper.

“This camp is a good opportunity to take stock of their state of physical and mental fitness. We also have the opportunity to talk about the team culture and the ambitions for 2019. 

“We want say after the end of the year that we can perform during the World Cup, but we have a lot of work ahead of us,” added the Kiwi who has been in charge since 2013.

(Continue reading below…)

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Thirty-two players made it to Toulouse for the catch-up, all from European clubs. There were 14 from England and 18 from France. 

They included veteran Akapusi Qera. He had missed the November series which culminated in that famous win over France at Stade de France. However, he has since signed with Hartpury in the England Championship, rekindling the 34-year-old’s hopes of trying to make the squad for a fourth World Cup.  

Toulon’s Josua Tuisova was due to be the 33rd player at the camp, but he was given family leave. Other European-based players not in attendance were the injured Viliame Mata of Edinburgh.

Nemani Nadolo scores a try under pressure from England’s Anthony Watson at the 2015 Rugby World Cup, but the Fijian has recently announced his international retirement (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Vereniki Goneva and Waisea Nayacalevu also remained in Newcastle and Paris, while Montpellier pair Nemani Nadolo and Timoci Nagusa have announced their international retirements.

No players were called up from the Fiji-based Drua due to their participation in the 2019 Pacific Challenge.   

With their three-day camp over, the Fijians will not link up together again until July. They will have a match against the New Zealand Maori before getting stuck in at the Pacific Nations Cup against Japan, Canada, Samoa and Tonga.

A conversation among the group in Toulouse was the proposed World League. It was initially speculated that countries such as Fiji would be excluded, but that allegation has since been denied ahead of a World Rugby meeting in Dublin in March 14. 

“Personally, it’s not fair,” said Dominiko Waqaniburotu, skipper of the Fiji side that won in Paris 15 weeks ago. “Some of our players in the Pacific Rugby Group (a different group than Samoan Daniel Leo’s Pacific Rugby Players Welfare) have discussed this. 

“We read a lot of speculation in the media. We have to wait for the meetings hoping that the best is presented.”

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'Toulouse camp a good opportunity to take stock of Fiji's state of physical and mental fitness'