Flying Fijians Head Coach Vern Cotter has named a mixture of experience and young players for the two test matches against the All Blacks on July the 10th and 17th in Dunedin and Hamilton respectively.
Cotter said “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.
We are looking forward to getting this group together and we will have to keep things simple.”
The players and management traveling to New Zealand will be in quarantine for 14 days in Christchurch before being cleared to train as a group for the first test match.
Fiji Rugby General Manager Simon Raiwalui said everyone at the Union have been working hard so that the players traveling from Europe and the players plus management leaving Fiji on Friday don’t face any difficulties in-terms of the COVID-19 protocols.
He said “Everybody have to follow quarantine protocols to be able to play rugby in New Zealand and our team headed by Chief Executive Officer John O’Connor have done a lot of work behind the scene to organize the procedures.
World Rugby has been actively and positively helping us to get across this so there is a lot of work done so that we can get the players travel from Europe and get to New Zealand.”
Cotter said the players will be given individual training program while in quarantine so that they can keep themselves active because it will be critical when they come out of quarantine, they are ready to prepare and play rugby.
He added that his looking forward to continue from where they left in the Autumn Nations Cup where they defeated Georgia 38-24 last November.
“We looking for continuity from what we did in November but we have got an open mind with regards to players and how they feel after playing whole year for their clubs.
So we will be accessing everybody individually to see how they feel, are they prepared to play the All Blacks in the first test match or are they best to play in the second test match and we will make choices from there” said Cotter.
Looking at the squad, the Flying Fijians extended team consists of 14 players from France, 5 each from England and Scotland, 3 from Australia, 2 from New Zealand, and 4 are local based.
Extended Fijian 7s squad members Onisi Ratave and Vinaya Habosi who were released from the 7s squad get their call up after missing out on the Autumn Nations Cup due to 7s commitments last year.
Queensland Reds half-back Mosese Sorovi, New Zealand Crusaders winger Manasa Mataele and France based Peniami Narisia, Vilimoni Botitu, and Eneriko Buliruarua a few fresh faces to join the Flying Fijians camp.
Cotter has maintained the core of the squad with the likes of Samuel Matavesi, Peni Ravai and Mesake Doge in the front row, Leone Nakarawa, Albert Tuisue, Peceli Yato and John Dyer in the forwards while Frank Lomani, Ben Volavola, Nemani Nadolo and Kini Murimurivalu are expected to guide the backline during trainings.
Semi Radradra will miss the test matches as he will not be able to make it in time for 14 days’ mandatory quarantine due to his club Bristol Bears playing in England’s Premiership semi-final therefore he will be part of the Olympic Games preparations with the Fijian 7s team.
Levani Botia will captain the Flying Fijians against All Blacks.
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.’’
He said “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 is predicting tough matches against the All Blacks who will come fully prepared to face the Flying Fijians.
“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” Cotter 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” said Cotter.
Flying Fijians 33-member extended squad VS All Blacks
Flying Fijians Management
Vern Cotter Head Coach
Willie Baleinabuli Manager
Daryl Gibson Assistant Coach
Glen Jackson Assistant Coach
Jason Ryan Assistant Coach
Scott Crean Head S&C
Eroni Sotutu S&C
Vaea Patterson Performance Analyst
Josua Vuto Performance Analyst
Emosi Taloga Team Doctor
Kristine Manu Physio
Simon Raiwalui General Manager High Performance.