The Fijian Drua’s strong Super Rugby Pacific season has been reflected in the Fiji national squad, accounting for 18 of the 39-man squad,

Head coach Simon Raiwalui named the squad ahead of their first Test of 2023 against Tonga on 22 July, reduced from a wider 45-player training squad a fortnight ago.

“We had to wait until all club commitments were finished before finalizing the squad. There were a few injury concerns and this has been reflected in the selection of the squad,” Raiwalui said.

“Prop Haereiti Hetet and utility forward Joseva Tamani are still recovering for injury and will be managed from outside the group by our medical staff.

“All members not named in the initial training group will remain part of the wider group and be provided training programs, they will remain in contention for selection should there be any injuries.”

There are eight uncapped players, seven of which come from the Drua, who made the Super Rugby finals for the first time in 2023.

Centre Iosefo Masi headlines the new inclusions after his breakout season on his return from rugby league, joined by Drua captain Meli Derenalagi and Selestino Ravutaumada.

This is the highest number of Drua players named for a Flying Fijians campaign, which is a fantastic achievement for our entire Club,” Drua CEO Mark Evans said.

“One of the many reasons for the formation of the Drua was to be a bridge to the national team.

“To be able to supply a steady stream of talent to the Flying Fijians is very pleasing indeed.

“There is no higher honour for a Fijian player than to don that famous white and black Flying Fijians jersey.

“We are extremely proud of all our players who have made the squad.

“We are consistently achieving key milestones; we’ve made a Shop N Save Super Rugby Pacific quarter-final in just our second year, and now have provided over 15 squad members to the Flying Fijians two years in a row”.

Meanwhile, Seven Fijian Drua players will experience for the first time what its like to be part of a Flying Fijians camp.

The seven are Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta, Meli Tuni, Vilive Miramira, Caleb Muntz, Iosefo Masi, Selestino Ravutaumada and captain Meli Derenalagi who have been included in the 39-member squad that’ll march into camp in Taveuni on Saturday.

In total, 18 Drua players made Simon Raiwalui’s squad to prepare for the Pacific Nations Cup and Rugby World Cup.

Other Drua reps who made the cut are Tevita Ikanivere, Mesake Doge, Samuela Tawake, Zuriel Togiatama, Isoa Nasilasila, Frank Lomani, Simione Kuruvoli, Peni Matawalu, Teti Tela, Kalaveti Ravouvou and Ilaisa Droasese.

The Drua coaching staff of Glen Jackson, Brad Harris, Naca Cawanibuka, William Koong and Performance Analyst Pita Uluikabara will be part of the Flying Fijians campaign in France as well.