Sat, 24 Jul 2021

Fiji will be without try-scoring machine Semi Radradra when they face the All Blacks next month, with coach Vern Cotter choosing to blood Crusaders breakout star Manasa Mataele in his absence.

Winger Radradra was not named in Fiji's 33-man squad for the two-Test series in New Zealand because he is preparing to contest the English Premiership semi-finals with the Bristol Bears.

Instead, Cotter turned to Mataele, who has enjoyed his best season with the Crusaders and will be familiar with both New Zealand conditions and most of his All Black opponents.

Queensland Reds scrumhalf Mosese Sorovi, an integral part of the side that claimed the Super Rugby AU title, was also among the new faces in the squad, along with the France-based trio Peniami Narisia, Vilimoni Botitu and Eneriko Buliruarua.

Centre Levani Botia will captain the squad.

Cotter said he had kept the core of the group that contested the Autumn Nations Cup and capped a coronavirus-interrupted campaign with a morale-boosting 38-24 win over Georgia.

The squad consists of 24 players based in Europe, three in Australia, two in New Zealand and four in Fiji.

Cotter said it was a logistical challenge bringing players from so many locations to New Zealand, where they will face two weeks of mandatory quarantine.

He said players would have to follow individual training programmes while in quarantine because they needed to hit the ground running once they were released.

"We will be assessing everybody individually to see how they feel," he said.

"Are they prepared to play the All Blacks in the first Test match or are they best to play in the second? We will make choices from there."

With preparation time limited, Cotter said the emphasis was on "keeping things simple and being together".

"Our first job will be reviewing what we did against Georgia, how we can get better," he said.

"[There's] no bigger test than All Blacks to make sure we are fully focused and concentrating on our jobs."

The first Test takes place in Dunedin on 10 July, with the second in Hamilton on 17 July.

Fiji squad

Backs: Frank Lomani, Mosese Sorovi, Simione Kuruvoli, Ben Volavola, Teti Tela, Levani Botia (captain), Vilimoni Botitu, Waisea Nayacalevu, Eneriko Buliruarua, Onisi Ratave, Nemani Nadolo, Vinaya Habosi, Manasa Mataele, Eroni Sau, Seta Tuicuvu, Kini Murimurivalu.

Forwards: Peni Ravai, Eroni Mawi, Haereiti Hetet, Sam Matavesi, Peniami Narisia, Mesulame Dolokoto, Luke Tagi, Mesake Doge, Leeroy Atalifo, Tevita Ratuva, Temo Mayanavanua, Leone Nakarawa, Albert Tuisue, Mesulame Kunavula, Kitione Kamikamica, John Dyer, Peceli Yato.

Source: News24

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