Vinaya Habosi and Levani Botia start as Flying Fijian coach Raiwalui names squad for French test match


Flying Fijians robust winger Vinaya Habosi has made his cut into the run-on team as Head Coach Simon Raiwalui named a powerful match day 23-member squad for the match against France this weekend.

Habosi missed the last three test matches due to an injury he suffered during his club game with Racing 92 and he last featured for the Flying Fijians against Ireland during the 2022 November tour.

Raiwalui said “Habosi has been knocking at the door and finally he has got a chance to showcase his talent. It’s great news that he was cleared of an injury and we are looking forward to seeing him and what he has to offer against France.”

Looking at the line-up, our three front rows are Eroni Mawi and Mesake Doge at Props while Tevita Ikanivere starts at hooker. Isoa Nasilasila returns and will partner up with Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta at locks.

Meli Derenalagi gets his third straight start and will be guided by experienced and robust Levani Botia on the flanks. Viliame Mata is at number eight.

Frank Lomani and Caleb Muntz will form the halves combinations while Hobosi and Josua Tuisova will provide speed on the wings. Captain Semi Radradra and Iosefo Masi are in the centers while Sireli Maqala anchors at fullback.

Expect the momentum to pick up in the second spell, with players such as Sam Matavesi, Peni Ravai, Albert Tuisue, Simione Kuruvoli and Jiuta Wainiqolo on the bench.

Raiwalui said “This is one of the best opportunities to test ourselves in various areas. The whole team has been working hard for the past few days since arriving at Pornic and we are ready for the match.

He further added, “It’s a huge game for us as France have been playing really good rugby and while World Cup is here, there is a lot of interest in rugby and in the French team who are always a tough opponent to beat.”

Flying Fijians face France at 7 am {FJT} on Sunday.

FIJI: 15 Sireli Maqala, 14 Josua Tuisova, 13 Iosefo Masi, 12 Semi Radradra (captain), 11 Vinaya Habosi, 10 Caleb Muntz, 9 Frank Lomani, 8 Levani Botia, 7 Viliame Mata, 6 Meli Derenalagi, 5 Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta, 4 Isoa Nasilasila, 3 Mesake Doge, 2 Tevita Ikanivere, 1 Eroni Mawi

Replacement: 16 Sam Matavesi, 17 Peni Ravai, 18 Luke Tagi, 19 Temo Mayanavanua, 20 Albert Tuisue, 21 Simi Kuruvoli, 22 Jiuta Wainiqolo

Meanwhile, the Fiji Rugby Union (FRU) interim Administrator Simione Valenitabua has announced that the FRU Trust, through its Interim Board of Trustees, has approved the request by the players and management of the Flying Fijians to sing the National Anthem in the i-taukei language.

This resolution comes after receiving the blessings of the Prime Minister of Fiji.

Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka confirmed to the Flying Fijians that the Vosa Vakaviti version, entitled “Meda Dau Doka,” embodies the spirit and deep meaning of the English version, “Blessing Grant.” The Fijian rendition will now precede the English version, marking the first time in the history of Fiji Rugby that the Fijian version will be sung as part of the National Anthem prior to the kick-off of an international test.

Flying Fijians Captain Waisea Nayacalevu said “The team as a whole came up with the idea of singing the national anthem in i-taukei version which also reflects back to our goal of reconnecting to who we are and where we have come from.

Nayacalevu said “My respect to all the ethnic and to the multicultural country we are, the initial objective of the group is to reconnect back to our roots and our identity and singing the anthem in I Taukei is part of that reconnection.

The Flying Fijians players and management have been practicing the national anthem since they settled in Pornic, France earlier this week.

He further added that the players have welcomed it with open arms and are excited to sing it for the first time against France on Sunday.

Head Coach Simon Raiwalui said “It’s a player-driven idea and is something that takes the players back to their roots of who they are and where they came from.”

Flying Fijians will sing the i-taukei version followed by the English version of the national anthem in all the matches from now onwards.

The adoption of the i-taukei version of the National Anthem serves to honour the rich cultural heritage of Fiji and its connection to the sport of Rugby.

This historical decision reflects the pride and unity of the nation and stands as a symbol of respect for the Fijian language, reinforcing the significance of Fiji’s indigenous identity on the global stage.