Cape Town - Fiji head coach John McKee has named a strong and dynamic team to take on Samoa in round one of the World Rugby Pacific Nations Cup this Saturday at ANZ Stadium in Suva.
With EPCR European Player of the Year Leone Nakarawa leading the forwards and Premiership Player of the Year Vereniki Goneva spearheading the backs, the Fijians will be looking to make a flying start to the series.
After an intensive couple of weeks in camp, McKee is pleased with the commitment to training and effort the players have put in to their preparations for this series opener.
“The boys have really gelled together across the last couple of weeks," said McKee.
“With the quality work they’ve put onto the training pitch, it’s important we now see that trans- ferred into a strong match day performance.”
Aware of the determination Samoa will bring to battle in this series, the Fijian pack including Nakawara, Ma’afu, Viliame Mata (in his first start) and captain Akapusi Qera will have their work cut out against the fierce Manu Samoa scrum.
But it’s the power in the Fiji side that is sure to excite local fans. With size, power and skill across the midfield and wings the combination of Goneva, Galala, Vatubua and Masilevu is set to be a menacing force for Fiji.
“The centres have been gelling really well in the short time we’ve had together and between them we’ve got the ability to play both a direct and expansive game," said McKee.
“Our Fijian fans have the opportunity to witness some truly world class players in action this weekend."
The Fijians have also named four debutants for Saturday’s clash with Eroni Mawi, Alivereti Veoitokani and Ratu Vere Vugatoko on the bench and rising star Sevanaia Galala earning a start at inside centre.
It will be a momentous occasion for the four young prospects and the McKee believes the experience around the team will provide each player with the support to make their impact on the game.
“There’s a lot of international experience in our match day squad and those boys (the debutants) will have plenty of support around them to gain confidence to perform at Test match level.
“It’s up to each player to make the most of their opportunities when they’re presented with the white jersey.”
15 Kini Murimurivalu, 14 Benito Masilevu, 13 Jale Vatubua, 12 Sevanaia Galala, 11 Vereniki Goneva, 10 Ben Volavola, 9 Henry Seniloli, 8 Akapusi Qera (captain), 7 Viliame Mata, 6 Dominiko Waqaniburotu, 5 Leone Nakarawa, 4 Apisalome Ratuniyarawa, 3 Manasa Saulo, 2 Talemaitoga Tuapati, 1 Campese Ma’afu
Substitutes: 16 Ratu Vere Vugakoto, 17 Eroni Mawi, 18 Ropate Rinakama, 19 Sikeli Nabou, 20 Nemani Nagusa, 21 Serupepeli Vularika, 22 Alivereti Veitokani, 23 Timoci Nagusa
15 Ahsee Tuala, 14 Ed Fidow, 13 Rey Lee-Lo, 12 Alapati Leiua, 11 Sinoti Sinoti, 10 Tusi Pisi, 9 Melani Matavao, 8 Mat Luamanu, 7 Jack Lam, 6 Piula Faasalele, 5 Chris Vui (captain), 4 Josh Tyrell, 3 Paul Alo-Emile, 2 Motu Matu'u, 1 Logovii Mulipola
Substitutes: 16 Seilala Lam, 17 Jordan Lay, 18 Viliamu Afatia, 19 Joe Tekori, 20 TJ Ioane, 21 Dwayne Polataivao, 22 Rodney Iona, 23 Paul Perez