Nine players are set to earn their first Test caps for the Flying Fijians when they take on Georgia in the side’s first and final Autumn Nations Cup outing this weekend.
Head coach Vern Cotter has named Johnny Dyer, Mesulame Kunavula and Temo Mayanavanua in his starting forwards line-up while Tevita Ikanivere, Haereiti Hatet, Samuela Tawake, Chris Minimbi, Manueli Ratuniyarawa and Simione Kuruvoli will earn theirs off the bench.
In the backline, Cotter has opted for experience, with Frank Lomani and Ben Volavola making up the halves combo, Nemani Nadolo and Josua Tuisova to man the wing, match-day skipper Semi Radradra will control the midfield alongside Levani Botia and Kini Murimurivalu at fullback.
Coming out after being holed up in isolation after a coronavirus outbreak in camp that saw them forfeit all three pool games, Cotter said it took a toll on the team’s momentum. However, he said it will not dissuade the side from putting up a game that will make Fiji proud and validate their participation in the inaugural competition.
“To be fair it hasn’t bothered the players. The players are focused on playing for the Flying Fijians and putting on the white jersey that they are incredibly proud off together with representing their country,” he added. “It’s an exciting blend of experience and young players who want to establish themselves as Flying Fijians.”
That said, he is wary of Georgia’s form having had some game time during the competition where their forwards showed class, hinting at a possible battle upfront. But he is also banking on the likes of Radradra, Nadolo and Tuisova who the side will be looking to create space for, to spark their magic.
“The forwards are the first group that I’m really concerned about because we know they will be going to drive our line outs and dominate our scrum and attack when we have the ball so we can’t get the ball out to our exciting backline,” Cotter said.
“We are aware of that and the first challenge is to be very attentive and work hard to become effective and then of course once we do that, we need to find space and we need to have Semi Radradra, Nemani Nadolo and Josua Tuisova with ball in hand and a little bit of room. If we can do that than our game will be the game, we want.”Flying Fijians head coach Vern Cotter
The Georgia game is Cotter’s first stint since joining Rugby House early this year.
Flying Fijians vs Georgia line-up
Kini Murimurivalu; Josua Tuisova, Semi Radradra (captain) Levani Botia, Nemani Nadolo; Ben Volavola, Frank Lomani; Albert Tuisue, Mesulame Kunavula, Johnny Dyer, Tem Mayanavanu, Tevita Ratuva, Mesake Doge, Samuel Matavesi, Peni Ravai
Replacements: Tevita Ikanivere, Haereiti Hetet, Samuela Tawake, Chris Minimbi, Manueli Ratuniyarawa, Simione Kuruvoli, Serupepeli Vularika, Waisea Nayacalevu
Photos: Fiji Rugby Media