New Centre Pairing For The Flying Fijians

France-based Fijian winger Waisea Nayacalevu believes he will not have any problems playing in midfield for the Fiji Airways Flying Fijians against the Maori All Blacks tomorrow. Nayacalevu was named
12 Jul 2019 14:52
New Centre Pairing For The Flying Fijians
Fiji Airways Flying Fijian first five-eight Ben Volavola (with ball) makes a run while centre Waisea Nayacalevu (right) and Mosese Voka close in at Albert Park in Suva on July 11, 2019. Photo: Sheldon Chanel

France-based Fijian winger Waisea Nayacalevu believes he will not have any problems playing in midfield for the Fiji Airways Flying Fijians against the Maori All Blacks tomorrow.

Nayacalevu was named at centre alongside Levani Botia, with head coach John McKee forced to make adjustments in the squad due to injuries to Semi Radradra and Jale Vatubua.

McKee will be hoping the pair can hit the ground running against the Maoris, in what is a revival of an old 7s partnership.

Injuries had also kept Nayacalevu out of the squad for two years but the former Fijian 7s star is raring to make a return at the ANZ Stadium in Suva.

“I’m pretty happy to be selected so thank you to the coaches. Midfield is not a new position for me, I’ve played there in a few games and it will be good challenge,” he said.

“Lepani is also a very talented guy. I’m really happy to play alongside him.”

The 29-year-old was impressive from the wing for Stade Français in France’s Top 14 competition last season, scoring some superb tries in 17 appearances.

His defensive effort was also decent, closing the season with a tackle completion rate of 75 per cent, according to Rugby Pass statistics.

Botia’s performance for La Rochelle in the same competition was mixed, with the versatile 30-year-old struggling for game time due to persistent injuries.

However, despite playing only seven times last season, Botia had an above average tackle completion rate of 68 per cent.

His other notable stats included 167 metres gained, seven line breaks and five assists.

Coach McKee, given the injuries, believes he has selected the best duo available to pull the strings from midfield.

“Levani (Botia) is a very strong player in midfield for us. He’s had some injuries so it’s good for us to see him back in the mix. Wise (Nayacalevu) has been in good form at Stade Francais. He is genuine option at centre or winger,” he said.

The Kiwi coach’s selection has been to an extent influenced by injuries to key players, including halfback Nikola Matawalu and backline players Vereniki Goneva, Josh Matavesi, Vatubua and Radradra.

The team’s injury list grew in training yesterday when wingers Patrick Osborne and Eroni Sau, both named in the match 23, collided heavily in mid-air.

McKee confirmed that Osborne will miss Saturday’s game due to concerns he might have suffered a head injury in the collision.

“By the looks of it, Patrick will be on a HIA (Head Injury Assessment) so he’ll be out for the weekend,” he said.

“We will see how he progresses for next week. I haven’t had an update on Eroni yet,” he said.

McKee added that a number of players were on regeneration training programmes based on injuries coming out of their club seasons and heavy workload issues.

One plus point for Fiji is the availability of London Irish Exiles duo lock forward Albert Tuisue and fullback Alivereti Veitokani.

Both have been handed their first starts for the Flying Fijians, having previously only made appearances from the bench.

The pair, who rose to prominence with the Fiji Airways Fijian Drua side in 2018, was integral in the Exiles’ successful promotion bid to Premiership rugby in England last season.

McKee says, he expects Veitokani, who made his Flying Fijians debut last year, to augment Fiji’s blistering counter-attacking style of rugby from fullback.

“He gives us some great attacking qualities and as the campaigns goes on, I expect to see him playing 10 (first five-eighth) as well,” the coach said.

“For this week, I expect to see some strong counter-attacking from Freddy.”


LIne-up: 1. Peni Ravai, 2. Sam Matavesi. 3. Manasa Saulo, 4. Albert Tuisue, 5. Leone Nakarawa. 6. Dominiko Waqaniburotu, 7. Semi Kunatani, 8. Viliame Mata, 9. Frank Lomani,  10. Ben Volavola, 11. Eroni Sau, 12. Lepani Botia, 13 Waisea Nayacalevu, 14. Josua Tuisova, 15. Alivereti Veitokani. Reserves: 16 Mesulame Dolokoto, 17. Eroni Mawi, 18. Kalivati Tawake, 19. Api Ratuiniyarawa, 20. Nemani Nagusa, 21. Henry Seniloli, 22. Sevanaia Galala, 23. Patrick Osborne.

Edited by Osea Bola


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