Botia Leads Our Men

Squad members bound for Christchurch on Friday for 14 days quarantine,Semi Radradra (club commitment), Josua Tuisova missed out, going for Olympics prep, We’re looking forward to getting this group together and we will have to keep things simple-Vern Cotter, Reds halfback Mosese Sorovi, Crusaders winger Manasa Mataele are among fresh faces joining camp.
16 Jun 2021 16:28
Botia Leads Our Men
Levani Botia (closest to camera) will captain the Flying Fijians in the July Tests against the All Blacks. Photo: FRU Media

Levani Botia will lead the Flying Fijians in the two test matches against the All Blacks next month.

The Naitasiri strongman replaces Semi Radradra who is unavailable due to club commitment with Bristol Bears in Premiership Rugby in England.

In an interesting mix of upcoming and experienced reps, Flying Fijians Head Coach Vern Cotter has named 33 players for the two test matches on July 10 and July 17 in Dunedin and Hamilton respectively.


Keeping Things Simple

Vowing to keep things simple, Cotter has named Nemani Nadolo and Crusaders’ Manasa Mataele on the wing together with local inputs in Namosi players Vinaya Habosi and Onisi Ratave.

Cotter said: “It’s an exciting squad and a perfect opportunity for the players who have been training well and the exposure within the squad against other confirmed international players will be fruitful.

“We are looking forward to getting this group together and we will have to keep things simple.”

The players and management traveling to New Zealand will be in quarantine for 14 days in Christchurch before being cleared to train as a group for the first test match.


Rugby Protocols

Fiji Rugby General Manager Simon Raiwalui said everyone at Rugby House had been working hard so that the players traveling from Europe and the players plus management leaving Fiji on Friday did not face any difficulties in terms of the COVID-19 protocols.

He said “Everybody has to follow quarantine protocols to be able to play  in New Zealand and our team headed by Chief Executive Officer John O’Connor have done a lot of work behind the scene to organise the procedures.

“World Rugby has been actively and positively helping us to get across this so there is a lot of work done so that we can get the players to travel from Europe and get to New Zealand.”

Cotter said the players would be given individual training programmes while in quarantine so that they could keep themselves active because it will be critical when they come out of quarantine, they were ready to prepare and play rugby.

He added that he’s looking forward to continuing from where they left in the Autumn Nations Cup where they defeated Georgia 38-24 last November.

“We looking for continuity from what we did in November but we have got an open mind with regards to players and how they feel after playing the whole year for their clubs.

“So we will be accessing everybody individually to see how they feel, are they prepared to play the All Blacks in the first test match or are they best to play in the second test match and we will make choices from there,” said Cotter.

Looking at the squad, the Flying Fijians extended team consists of 14 players from France, 5 each from England and Scotland, 3 from Australia, 2 from New Zealand, and 4 are locally based.


New Faces In Camp

Extended Fijian 7s squad members Ratave and Vinaya Habosi who were released from the 7s squad get their call up after missing out on the Autumn Nations Cup due to 7s commitments last year.

Queensland Reds halfback Mosese Sorovi, New Zealand Crusaders winger Manasa Mataele and France based Peniami Narisia, Vilimoni Botitu, and Eneriko Buliruarua are few fresh faces to join the Flying Fijians camp.

Cotter has maintained the core of the squad with the likes of Samuel Matavesi, Peni Ravai and Mesake Doge in the front row, Leone Nakarawa, Albert Tuisue, Peceli Yato and John Dyer in the forwards while Frank Lomani, Ben Volavola, Nemani Nadolo and Kini Murimurivalu are expected to guide the backline during training.


Stars Prefer Olympics

Radradra will miss the test matches as he will not be able to make it in time for 14 days’ mandatory quarantine due to his club Bristol Bears playing in England’s Premiership semi-finall.Therefore he will be part of the Olympic Games preparations with the Fijian 7s team. Likewise Josua Tuisova has preferred to join Fijian 7s team Olympic prep.

He added “It was difficult to put the squad firmly together until players finished their season in Top 14 and the Premiership competition.

We are very happy with the mix as we have some new players who will be joining us and will bring enthusiasm.’’

He said “Whatever happens we will get positive feedback from both games for our players to help us progress later for the World Cup in 2023.


Consistency key; Cotter

Cotter is predicting tough matches against the All Blacks who will come fully prepared to face the Flying Fijians.

“The All Blacks will be very hard in the first test match but they will be even harder for the second test so we will need to be able to grow this group by keeping things simple and being together will be the main key to it,” Cotter said.

“It’s about kicking off from where we left during the Autumn Nations Cup in November last year. We finished on a really positive note in the United Kingdom against Georgia.

“We were frustrated not to play the other games because of COVID-19 and we will be looking forward to getting together and just kicking on.

“Our first job will be reviewing what we did against Georgia, how we can get better and with no bigger test then All Blacks to make sure we are fully focused and concentrating on our jobs,” said Cotter.



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