Nine Locals, Kunatani Out

Local players have the ability, with guidance from senior players, to become great Flying Fijians-Vern Cotter.
13 Oct 2020 13:42
Nine Locals, Kunatani Out
Naitasiri first five eighth, Tuidraki Samusamuvodre (right) and Chris Minimbi (second from left) are among the nine local players named by Flying Fijians coach, Vern Cotter, for the Europe Tour next month. Photo: Naitasiri Rugby


Our players playing in the Skipper Cup Premiership, which resumes this Saturday, have been urged to keep on trying and never give up.

Fiji Rugby Union chief executive officer John O’Connor fired the timely reminder after nine locals were included in the Flying Fijians 2020 squad for the Autumn Nations Cup in Europe.

And the notable omission from the 32-member tour party named by Flying Fijians Vern Cotter was Olympian Semi Kunatani, Nikola Matawalu and Api Ratuniyarawa and the inclusion of Nemani Nadolo.

The nine local based players are Suva’s  Tevita Ikanivere and Serupepeli Vularika, Naitaisiri’s  Chris Minimbi, Tuidraki Samusamuvodre and Samuela Tawake, Nadroga’s  Jone Koroiduadua and Manueli Ratuniyarawa, Namosi’s  Peni Matawalu and Tailevu’s Simione Kuruvoli

“We are looking at Rugby World Cup 2023 and beyond and Flying Fijians head coach Vern Cotter is closely monitoring players playing in the Skipper Cup,” O’Connor said.

“I would like to encourage local players playing in the domestic competition that there will be a lot of opportunities in the future.

O’Connor said FRU High Performance Unit (HPU) manager Simon Raiwalui was working on ways to involve more locals in top competition in 2021.

“We are discussing with Vern and Simon on the possibility to have locals with New Zealand and Australia-based players for the Pacific Nations Cup next year,” O’Connor said.

“We will only bring players from the Northern Hemisphere when we play big teams like Australia and New Zealand if the opportunity arises next year.

“There is a lot of work to do, a lot of uncertainties due to COVID 19, but we are excited about the opportunity. I must thank the Six Nations for giving us this historical opportunity.

“I’ve reminded the coaches and the players that this is something that we’ve been chasing for a long time and they need to go out there and prepare players well and be competitive when they are selected.

“As highlighted by Cotter, post COVID 19, we hope to build depth in all position leading up RWC 2023


Cotter 32 tour squad

Cotter has named a powerful Flying Fijians touring squad to prepare for the Autumn Nations Cup in Europe next month.

A squad of 32 players will  camp on October 25 in preparation to face France on November 15, Italy on November 21 and Scotland on November 29 at Murrayfield.

Flying Fijians will also play warm-up game against Portugal on November 6.

Competition will be fierce across all positions, with many of the Europe based players coming off the back of stellar seasons including Bristol Bears try-scoring machine Semi Radradra, London Irish forward Albert Tuisue and Lyon powerhouse Josua Tuisova.

Cotter said the naming of nine local players augur well for the future.

“These players have the ability, with guidance from senior players, to become great Flying Fijians,” Cotter said.

“We will certainly be demanding a lot from them with guidance by the senior ones in the squad.”

New Zealand based Waikato prop Haereiti Hetet, Northland forward Temo Mayanavanua and France based Kitione Kamikamica and Lekima Tagitagivalu are also expected to earn their first cap during the tour.

“Haereiti is an unknown player but his father isn’t, he’s the son of Joeli Veitayaki, somebody who is very well known,” Cotter said.

“Haereiti has really impressed us with his performance as he can play both sides, left and right, and he is very excited about this opportunity,” Cotter added.

Cotter said he has injected a few of the experienced players in each position such as Leone Nakarawa who can guide the team when needed.

“We won’t be going far away from relying on  Nakarawa to help these young players in coping up with international rugby pressures so his arm around those players plus guidance from other experienced players will be very important,” Cotter said.

He said that Nadolo’s return is a boost to the team.

“I know him well because he was at Montpellier and we have a strong relationship plus he has done well at Leicester Tigers in Premiership Rugby.

“He has assured me that he is playing well and he really wants to play, we feel he’s motivated and Nadolo motivated is a monster,” Cotter added.

Cotter has kept his options open for the captaincy role and will only decide aftermeeting everyone in the camp.

“We will sit down to explain what we want from them as our expectations are very high.

“We will then have a discussion with the senior players we’ve identified and from there make a decision.

The local based players are expected to fly out on October 24 and Cotter says it will be straight into camp for business.

“I don’t talk a lot as rugby is played on the field and they are good rugby players so we just going to explain what we expect from them and have a very simple approach to that game, drawing from their talent and using it in the best way possible,” Cotter said.

Edited by Osea Bola



Got A News Tip

Get updates from the Fiji Sun, handpicked and delivered to your inbox.

By entering your email address you're giving us permission to send you news and offers. You can opt-out at any time.

For All Fiji Sun Advertising
Fijisun E-edition