Fiji selects Sorovi, Mataele for NZ tests; Radradra out
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Fiji has selected Queensland Reds scrumhalf Mosese Sorovi and Crusaders winger Manasa Mataele in its squad for a two-test series against the All Blacks in New Zealand next month.
But backline star Semi Radradra is unavailable because of commitments to his English club, Bristol, and his preparations for the rugby sevens tournament at the Tokyo Olympics.
The Fiji team will quarantine for 14 days in Christchurch before the first test against New Zealand at Dunedin on July 10. Radradra will not be able to leave Britain in time to join the team in quarantine because of Bristol’s English premiership semifinal against Harlequins on Sunday.
France-based backrower Levani Botia will captain the Fiji squad which includes 14 players based in France, five each from England and Scotland, three from Australia, two from New Zealand and four from Fiji.
Head coach Vern Cotter has retained the core of the squad which played in last year’s Autumn Nations Cup in Britain.
Players returning from that squad include Samuel Matavesi, Peni Ravai and Mesake Doge in the front row, Leone Nakarawa, Albert Tuisue, Peceli Yato and John Dyer in second or backrow and Frank Lomani, Ben Volavola, Nemani Nadolo and Kini Murimurivalu among the backs.
Along with Sorovi and Mataeli, other newcomers include France-based Peniami Narisia, Vilimoni Botitu, and Eneriko Buliruarua. Onisi Ratave and Vinaya Habosi have been released from the Fiji sevens program to join the squad.
“It was difficult to put the squad together until players finished their season in (France’s) Top 14 and the (English) Premiership competitions,” Cotter said. “We are very happy with the mix as we have some new players who will be joining us and will bring enthusiasm.
“Whatever happens, we will get positive feedback from both games for our players to help us progress toward the World Cup in 2023.”
New Zealand-born Cotter said taking on the All Blacks at home will be difficult, especially with the added difficulty of having to quarantine and with no recent matches to prepare.
“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,” he said. “It’s about kicking on from where we left during the Autumn Nations Cup in November. We finished on a really positive note.”
The trip finished with a 38-24 win over Georgia.
“Our first job will be reviewing what we did against Georgia, how we can get better and, with no bigger test than the All Blacks, to make sure we are fully focused and concentrating on our jobs.,” Cotter said.
Fiji faces a logistical challenge in assembling players from six different countries and bringing them together to quarantine.
“Everybody has 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,” Fiji Rugby general manager Simon Raiwalui said.
“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 players will be given individual training programs while in quarantine.
Forwards, Peni Ravai, Eroni Mawi, Haereiti Hetet, Sam Matavesi, Peniami Narisia, Mesulame Dolokoto, Luke Tagi, Mesake Doge, Leeroy Atalifo, Tevita Ratuva, Temo Mayanavanua, Leone Nakarawa, Albert Tuisue, Mesulame Kunavula, Kitione Kamikamica, John Dyer, Peceli Yato.
Backs, Frank Lomani, Mosese Sorovi, Simione Kuruvoli, Ben Volavola, Teti Tela, Levani Botia (captain), Vilimoni Botitu, Waisea Nayacalevu, Eneriko Buliruarua, Onisi Ratave, Nemani Nadolo, Vinaya Habosi, Manasa Mataele, Eroni Sau, Seta Tuicuvu, Kini Murimurivalu.
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