Cotter names five debutants for PNC opener against Tonga

Vodafone Flying Fijians Head Coach Vern Cotter has named five debutants in the run-on team to face Tonga in the World Rugby Pacific Nations Cup match tomorrow at the HFC Bank Stadium in Suva.

“We need to give players opportunities and at the same time we need to give players coming late time to stimulate what we have done and get the feeling of the group,” Cotter said. “The players who have been here longer having that added advantage.”

Haereiti Hetet starts at loosehead, young and explosive Fijian Drua number 2, Tevita Ikanivere at hooker, with the experience of Manasa Saulo at tighthead prop.

Young Isoa Nasilasila will earn his first cap, making up the lock paring with Tevita Ratuva who has had a good season with his French club Brive overseas. At the flanks, are Mesulame Kunavula and Rusiate Nasove who also makes his debut after a fine season with Fijian Drua in the Super Rugby Pacific while Albert Tuisue will be at number 8.

Halfback Frank Lomani will guide the backline while Teti Tela gets an opportunity to start at fly-half.

Kalavati Ravouvou will control the midfield together with Waisea Nayacalevu who will offer experience as captain.

Fans will witness speed, power and more physicality on the wings with Vinaya Habosi earning his first cap on the left while exciting Jiuta Wainiqolo will be on the right side.

Setareki Tuicuvu starts at fullback.

Cotter has added more experience on the bench and is expecting the momentum to pick up once the substitutions are made.

Sam Matavesi, Eroni Mawi and Luke Tagi will add more firepower upfront while Apisalome Ratuniyarawa and Kitione Kamikamica will add boosted energy in the second row. Peni Matawalu is expected to bring his usual game flair at halfback while former All Blacks star Seta Tamanivalu could get an opportunity to debut off the bench in front of the home crowd. Manasa Mataele is likely to be vital either on the wings or at fullback.

“These players will bring experience when bodies are a little bit tired and will be able to do extra work ons at the final stage of the game,” Cotter said.

“ Traditionally like all other games against Tonga, this match will also be very physical for the initial 20 to 30 minutes therefore we need to be ready for that confrontation, the aggressive nature of their rugby plus we need to be smart and create opportunities, be accurate, calm and composed.

“We play at home and we want to play as a team and for each other and put in a good performance.”

Vodafone Flying Fijians squad V Tonga

  1. Haereiti Hetet
  2. Tevita Ikanivere
  3. Manasa Saulo
  4. Isoa Nasilasila*
  5. Tevita Ratuva
  6. Mesualme Kunavula
  7. Rusiate Nasove*
  8. Albert Tuisue
  9. Frank Lomani
  10. Teti Tela
  11. Vinaya Habosi*
  12. Kalaveti Ravouvou*
  13. Waisea Nayacalevu (c)
  14. Jiuta Wainiqolo
  15. Setareki Tuicuvu

Reserves

  1. Sam Matavesi
  2. Eroni Mawi
  3. Luke Tagi
  4. Apisalome Ratuniyarawa
  5. Kitione Kamikamica
  6. Peni Matawalu
  7. Setareki Tamanivalu*
  8. Manasa Mataele

Key: * signifies the name of the debutants
          {c} Captain

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