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Fiji mix youth and experience in Autumn Nations Cup squad

Fiji mix youth and experience in Autumn Nations Cup squad

Fiji mix youth and experience in Autumn Nations Cup squad

New Fiji coach Vern Cotter believes he has the perfect blend of youth and experience in his 32-man squad for the inaugural Autumn Nations Cup.

Cotter was named as Fiji coach in the early part of 2020 but this will be his first time leading the squad into matches, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The New Zealander has huge experience at both club and international level – leading Crusaders to back-to-back Super Rugby titles in 2005 and 2006, guiding Clermont to Top 14 glory in 2010 before spending three years as Scotland coach, which included a trip to the World Cup quarter-finals.

He was most recently in charge of Montpellier and his first Fiji squad has a core of experienced, talented Europe-based players including Bristol Bears star Semi Radradra, Glasgow Warriors lock Leone Nakarawa, Stade Français centre Waisea Nayacalevu and wingers Nemani Nadolo and Josua Tuisova.

Yet there are also nine Fiji-based players in the form of Tevita Ikanivere, Samuela Tawake, Jone Koroiduadua, Chris Minimbi, Manueli Ratuniyarawa, Peni Matawalu, Simione Kuruvoli, Tuidraki Samusamuvodre and Serupepeli Vularika, who have been training together at the Fiji Rugby Academy.

And Cotter is keen for his established stars to show the youngsters the way.

“These players have the ability, with guidance from senior players, to become great Flying Fijians,” said Cotter. “We will certainly be demanding a lot from them with guidance by the senior ones in the squad.

“We won’t be going far away from relying on Leone Nakarawa to help these young players in coping up with international rugby pressures so his arm around those players plus guidance from other experienced players will be very important.”

Waikato prop Haereiti Hetet, Northland forward Temo Mayanavanua and France-based Kitione Kamikamica and Lekima Tagitagivalu are also expected to earn their first cap during the tour.

Fiji begin with a warm-up game against Portugal on November 6 before facing France, Italy and Scotland in Group B of the Autumn Nations Cup, which will end with a finals game against their positional equivalent from Group A on December 5/6.

Fiji squad for the Autumn Nations Cup 

Forwards: Eroni Mawi, Peni Ravai, Haereiti Hetet, Samuela Tawake, Mesake Doge, Jone Koroiduadua, Mesulame Dolokoto, Sam Matavesi, Tevita Ikanivere, Tevita Ratuva, Leone Nakarawa, Temo Mayanavanua, Chris Minimbi, Mesulame Kunavula, Kitione Kamikamica, Johnny Dyer, Albert Tuisue, Manueli Ratuniyarawa, Lekima Tagitagivalu.

Backs: Frank Lomani, Peni Matawalu, Simione Kuruvoli, Ben Volavola, Tuidraki Samusamuvodre, Semi Radradra, Lepani Botia, Serupepeli Vularika, Jale Vatubua, Waisea Nayacalevu, Nemani Nadolo, Josua Tuisova, Kini Murimurivalu.

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