SPORTS

Force Coach Banks On Ex-Warrior

Fijian Drua must win to keep NRC defence campaign on track.
03 Sep 2019 14:50
Force Coach Banks On Ex-Warrior
Kiti Ratu.

A former Fijian Warriors utility back is going to be Western Force’s trump card as they face the Fiji Airways Fijian Drua at the ANZ Stadium, Suva on Saturday.

Kiti Ratu, also a former Melbourne Rebels winger, has impressed Force coach Tim Sampson who took him in along with 19-year-old Brisbane centre Byron Ralston.

Earlier on Ratu had put on a sterling performance against Tonga in Nuku’alofa.

Both players played for Force in last weekend’s National Rugby Championship opener where they pipped Queensland Country 50-49.

“Kiti has great experience having been at the Melbourne Rebels for a few years and the Rising,” Sampson said.

“He showed some good signs in the game last week and I am looking forward to watching him play again.

“Byron joined us last week and it was all a bit of a whirlwind, but he held his own and handled himself very well.

“He has had a very good season in Queensland Premier Grade rugby and I’m sure he is looking forward to playing against some of his former teammates that he was in the grand final with only two weeks ago.”

Chris Heiberg will make an appearance in the starting XV for the first time this year, with Tom Sheminant unavailable for selection as he recovers from a rib injury sustained in Tonga.

The forward pack has seen a further shuffle with the return of former All Black Jeremy Thrush, moving Fergus Lee-Warner to flanker alongside youngster Carlo Tizzano.

“We had put Thrush on ice for Tonga with the plan of bringing him in for the NRC.”

Outstanding form from Issak Fines has seen him hold onto his starting position, keeping Ian Prior in the reserves. Fly-half Andrew Deegan will continue his leadership position as run-on captain.

Coming up against the team that crushed the Force’s Grand Finals hopes in the semis last year, Sampson is expecting a tight game as both sides fight to assert their dominance in the new season.

Meanwhile, the Fijian Drua arrive today from Brisbane as they move to Suva to prepare for Saturday’s clash.

As defending NRC champions, the Eremasi Radrodro-captained side will be looking to record their first win to boost their chances of making it to the semi-final.

The Fijian Drua were held to a 22-22 draw by Brisbane City in their NRC opener last Saturday.

The match kicks-off at 3pm.

Feedback: leonec@fijisun.com.fj

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