McKee To Flying Fijians: Show Us What You’ve Got

We need to see the players on the park at the highest level to see what  they’ve got to offer, coach McKee adds.
16 Jul 2019 12:51
McKee To Flying Fijians: Show Us What You’ve Got
Fiji Airways Flying Fijians players and officials ready to board the Fiji Airways aircraft at Nausori International Airport on July 15, 2019. They’ll take on the Maori All Blacks in their return Test clash at Rotorua, New Zealand, on Saturday at 7.35pm. Photo: Simione Haravanua

The Fiji Airways Flying Fijians’ return match against the Maori All Blacks is likely to be one of the final few chances for players to earn a place in the World Cup squad.

Head coach John McKee made 11 changes to his travelling 26-member squad for the match in Rotorua, New Zealand this Saturday.

McKee says the changes were made to reflect the coaching panel’s plan to give every fit player some game time in the lead up to the Pacific Nations Cup.

“We need to see the players on the park at the highest level to see what they’ve got to offer,” he said before the team’s departure from Nausori International Airport yesterday.

Stand-out players Leone Nakarawa, Levani Botia, Semi Kunatani and Viliame Mata have been rested, presumably for the big PNC opener against Japan on July 27.

Winger Josua Tuisova is the other notable name left behind in Suva, a possible sign that he too will start against Japan.

Tuisova has been replaced by the returning Patrick Osborne, who was injured in training last Thursday after a mid-air head clash with still-out Eroni Sau. First five-eighth Ben Volavola, who was not playing to his full potential in last week’s 27-10 win against the Maori, has also remained in Suva.

France-based Clermont flanker Peceli Yato is still in rehabilitation after a gruelling Top 14 season, while centre Semi Radradra and Sau remain sidelined. McKee also announced seven local-based players in his squad, namely Luke Tagi, Joeli Veitayaki, Veremalua Vugakoto, Johnny Dyer, Mosese Voka, Frank Lomani and Serupepeli Vularika.

“Peceli played right through to June 15 in France with Clermont and he could be in the mix for selection against Japan,” McKee said.

“It’s the same thing with Radraradra. We’re not going to push Semi, who came out of France with a slight hip strain. He’s running fully now but we don’t want to rush him back in so he may be in the mix for Japan or Canada.”

The coach said he would like to see improvement in the lineouts and consistency in the scrums, two areas he will be working on throughout the week.

“There was a new interpretation around the scrum engagement which we had to deal with last week and I think this week we’re a bit used to it,” he added.

Edited by Naisa Koroi

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