Fiji headcoach Raiwalui names Flying Fijians wider squad

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Flying Fijians Head Coach Simon Raiwalui has announced a wider squad of 45 players for the upcoming July test series against Tonga on 22nd July 2023, Samoa on 29th July 2023, Japan on 5th August 2023, and pre-Rugby World Cup warm-up matches against France on 19th August 2023 and England on 26th August 2023.

The wider squad includes 23 players from the Swire Shipping Fijian Drua who are currently preparing for the Super Rugby Pacific quarterfinal against the Crusaders on Saturday, 13 players from French Top 14, 5 from the English Premiership and 1 each from French Pro D2, United Rugby Championship, Japan Rugby League One and Super Rugby. There are 10 uncapped players named amongst the experienced overseas-based Flying Fijians.

With niggling injuries to a few players, Coach Raiwalui will await the outcome of this weekend’s quarterfinal clash between the Swire Shipping Fijian Drua and the Crusaders before naming the final squad of 38 that marches into camp later this month.t

“I think it’s a great balance of players in the team. We know the different systems they play in especially the Sire Shipping Drua judging from the results that they have produced this year. Making the quarterfinals in their second year only makes my selection of the team a daunting exercise. All those selected from overseas or local, deserve to be in the Fiji Water Flying Fijians squad” said Raiwalui.

The 12 front rowers in the squad consist of loosehead props Peni Ravai {Queensland Reds}, Eroni Mawi {Saracens}, Haereti Hetet {Fijian Drua}, Meli Tuni {Fijian Drua}, hookers Sam Matavesi {Northampton Saints}, Tevita Ikanivere {Fijian Drua}, Zuriel Togiatama {Fijian Drua}, Mesulame Dolokoto {Fijian Drua} and tighthead props Mesake Doge {Fijian Drua}, Luke Tagi {Provence Rugby}, Samu Tawake {Fijian Drua}, Jone Koroiduadua {Fijian Drua}.

41 cap Flying Fijian lock Apisalome Ratuniyarawa {London Irish}, has been named in the second row alongside Isoa Nasilasila {Fijian Drua} and Temo Mayanavanua {Lyon}. The utility forwards are packed with experience with the likes of Albert Tuisue {Gloucester}, Peceli Yato {Clermont} and Drua pack of Lekima Tagitagivalu, Joseva Tamani and Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta.

The robust back row experience of Levani Botia {La Rochelle}, Viliame Mata {Edinburgh} and Kitione Kamikamica will guide young Meli Derenalagi {Fijian Drua}, and Vilive Miramira {Fijian Drua}.

An all-Fijian Drua halfback trio of Frank Lomani, Simione Kuruvoli and Peni Matawalu have been named in the wider squad, Teti Tela {Fijian Drua}, Caleb Muntz {Fijian Drua} and Ben Volavola {Racing 92} as fly-halfs.

The line-breakers creating opportunities in midfield are Josua Tuisova {Lyon}, Kalaveti Ravouvou {Fijian Drua}, Adrea Cocagi {Fijian Drua}, Waisea Nayacalevu {Toulon}, Iosefo Masi {Fijian Drua}, and Seta Tamanivalu {Toshiba Brave}.

Coach Raiwalui has also roped in specialist players in the Back three who have been in their best form for their clubs. Vinaya Habosi {Racing 92}, Jiuta Wainiqolo {Toulon}, Selestino Ravutaumada {Fijian Drua}, Ilaisa Drosese {Fijian Drua} and Setareki Tuicuvu {Brive} have all been included in to the extended squad. Semi Radradra {Bristol Bears}, Sireli Maqala {Bayonne} and Vilimoni Botitu {Castres} are named as utility backs.

The Fiji Water Flying Fijians will assemble on the 30th of this month and will be based in Taveuni for a week.

Coach Raiwalui said having the first week of camp in Taveuni is what he had initially planned when he got the role and believes it is something the whole team will be looking forward to later this month.

“We are going to Taveuni which is going to be a unique experience, no five-star hotel, no luxuries, live amongst the people and connect with them. We obviously will be there for a mission but part of it is reconnecting with who we are as Fijians and why we are the Fiji Water Flying Fijians and what is the goal” he said.

The Fiji Water Flying Fijians have a busy schedule ahead of their opening RWC match against Wales on the 10th of September. Raiwalui has further added he has the right set of players who will be able to deliver results as they progress toward RWC.

“The ultimate goal is the Rugby World Cup. We got Tonga first here at home and they are a well-experienced team as they got some new players this year. Then we move on to Samoa and Japan. Those matches are in our region. We have a week off and then we will fly to Europe to play France and England which are great matches to play leading into the World Cup” said Raiwalui.

Flying Fijians 46-member wider squad:

Loosehead Prop

Peni Ravai

Haereti Hetet

Eroni Mawi

Meli Tuni*

Hooker

Samuela Matavesi

Tevita Ikanivere

Zuriel Togiatama*

Mesulame Dolokoto

Tighthead Prop

Mesake Doge

Luke Tagi

Samu Tawake

Jone Koroiduadua*

Second Row

Isoa Nasilasila

Apisalome Ratuniyarawa

Temo Mayanavanua

Utility Forwards

Albert Tuisue

Peceli Yato

Lekima Tagitagivalu*

Joseva Tamani*

Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta

Backrow

Levani Botia

Viliame Mata

Meli Derenalagi*

Vilive Miramira*

Kitione Kamikamica

Halfback

Frank Lomani

Simione Kuruvoli

Peni Matawalu

Fly-half

Teti Tela

Caleb Muntz*

Ben Volavola

Inside Centre

Josua Tuisova

Kalaveti Ravouvou

Adrea Cocagi

Outside Center

Waisea Nayacalevu

Iosefo Masi*

Seta Tamanivalu

Back Three

Vinaya Habosi

Jiuta Wainiqolo

Selestino Ravutaumada*

Ilaisa Drosese

Setareki Tuicuvu

Utility

Semi Radradra

Sireli Maqala

Vilimoni Botitu

Key: * Uncapped Players

July Test Series Fixtures:

Saturday 22nd July, Churchill Park, Lautoka:

12pm: Fiji Water Flying Fijians VS Tonga

Saturday 29th July, Apia Park, Apia:

12pm: Samoa VS Fiji Water Flying Fijians

Saturday 5th August, Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium, Tokyo

10.15pm: Japan VS Fiji Water Flying Fijians

Pre-World Cup Warm-Up Matches:

Sunday 20th August, Stade de la Beaujoire, France:

7:05am: France VS Fiji Water Flying Fijians

Sunday 27th August, Twickenham Stadium, England

2:15am: France VS Fiji Water Flying Fijians.

SOURCE: FRU/PACNEWS