John McKee has named a powerful Fiji wider training group to prepare for the upcoming Pacific Test Series, incorporating the Maori All Blacks and Pacific Nations Cup, prior to selecting his squad for the Rugby World Cup in Japan later this year.
A squad of 38 players will march into camp on July 1st for their first mission against the Maori All Blacks on the 13th of July at ANZ Stadium before a return leg in Auckland on July 20.
The wider training squad welcomes a host of new faces, including local-based Fijian Drua and Fijian Latui players Johnny Dyer and Luke Tagi.
Competition will be fierce across all positions with many of the European-based players coming off the back of stellar seasons, including Viliame Mata – the PRO14 Players’ Player of the Year – and London Irish stars Alivereti Veitokani and Albert Tuisue, who helped their club achieve promotion from the English Championship.
McKee said: “It is very pleasing for me to see so many players getting games at their various European clubs. Their seasons are now closing down so we hope to see them back into Fiji from next week.”
The incoming squad members will join local squad members Frank Lomani, Serupepeli Vularika, Eroni Mawi, Mesulame Dolokoto, Joeli Veitayaki, Tuvere Veremalua and forward Mosese Voka, who have been training together with the Fiji Rugby Academy since January.
“Certainly there are very good local players who are challenging for positions in the Rugby World Cup team,” McKee added. “It is also an important time for them as they are currently part of the Swire Shipping Fijian Latui.”
With so many of his players coming into camp in good form, the head coach is eager to get stuck into series preparations.
“Now is the time, with all planning in place, I am really looking forward to getting into camp with the players from July 1st. We know we have a lot of work to do between our assembly and traveling to Japan for our first game against Australia in the Rugby World Cup,” he said.
“Players have been slowly filtering back onto the island. I expect by the second week of June nearly all the players will be back with the exception of any French players whose teams progress deep into finals.”
Fiji wider training squad:
Front-row: Leeroy Atalifo, Mesulame Dolokoto, Sunia Koto, Campese Ma’afu, Sam Matavesi, Eroni Mawi, Peni Ravai, Manasa Saulo, Luke Tagi, Kalivati Tawake, Joeli Veitayaki, Tuvere Veremalua
Second-row/back-row: Tevita Cavubati, Johnny Dyer, Semi Kunatani, Temo Mayanavanua, Viliame Mata, Sikeli Nabou, Leone Nakarawa, Nemani Nagusa, Jale Railala, Api Ratuniyarawa, Tevita Ratuva, Albert Tuisue, Mosese Voka, Dominiko Waqaniburotu, Peceli Yato
Half-backs: Frank Lomani, Niko Matawalu, Peni Matawalu, Henri Senioli, Seru Vularika
Inside backs: Levani Botia, Sevanaia Galala, Josh Matavesi, Alivereti Veitokani, Jale Vatubua, Ben Volavola
Outside backs: Vereniki Goneva, Benito Masilevu, Kini Murimurivalu, Filipo Nakosi, Apisai Naqalevu, Waisea Nayacelevu, Patrick Osbourne, Semi Radradra, Eroni Sau, Metuisela Talebula, Josua Tuisova, Setareki Tuicuvu