John McKee has named a powerful Fiji Airways Flying Fijians 42-member squad 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.
McKee said he is happy that all the players have declared their availability and are injury free heading into the camp on the 1st of July here in Suva.
“We have got a very good balance across the squad of experienced players but also some younger players who have been putting pressure on more senior players.”
He added “Being named in this squad is no guarantee of going to the Rugby World Cup. There is a lot of competition and work to be done across all our camps and the Maori All Blacks test matches and Pacific Nations Cup.”
Local players Eroni Mawi, Luke Tagi, Joeli Veitayaki, Mesulame Dolokoto, Tuvere Veremalua, Johnny Dyer, Mosese Voka, Frank Lomani and Serupepeli Vularika have made the cut in a positive reflection of the on island programmes.
McKee said these players have been in their best form playing for their provincial clubs in Skipper Cup, Fiji Airways Fijian Drua and in the Swire Shipping Fijian Latui team.
“In the last two years we have seen improvement of the level of the local players and I think that’s mainly testament to the Fiji Airways Fijian Drua and the new Swire Shipping Fijian Latui squad. I also think our Under-20s and academy programs have gotten stronger.”
France-based Brive utility forward Dominiko Waqaniburotu will once again captain the side after a successful outing during the autumn tour test matches last year.
McKee highlighted “Waqaniborutu certainly led by example during the November tour last year. I think his leadership was instrumental in helping the team to prepare for and put on such a great performance against the French team in Paris.”
“I really look forward to working with Dominiko as captain and I know we have a very strong leadership group in this team who will be driving a lot of team values and behaviours while in camp and at the Rugby World Cup” he added.
Fiji Airways Flying Fijians kick off their campaign against Maori All Blacks on the 13th of July at ANZ Stadium. They then play a return match in Rotorua on the 20th before preparing for the PNC.
Meanwhile, Fiji Rugby Chief Executive Officer John O’Connor has thanked all the sponsors, World Rugby and the Government for supporting the Flying Fijians team for the Rugby World Cup this year.
FLYING FIJIANS JULY SQUAD:
Selected for NZ Maori & Pacific Nations Cup.
Leeroy Atilifo, Campese Ma’afu, Eroni Mawi, Peni Ravai, Manasa Saulo, Luke Tagi, Kalivati Tawake, Joeli Veitayaki
Mesulame Dolokoto, Samuel Matavesi, Tuvere Vugakoto
Tevita Cavubati, Leone Nakarawa, Api Ratuniyarawa, Tevita Ratuva, Albert Tuisue
Johnny Dyer, Semi Kunatani, Viliame Mata, Nemani Nagusa, Mosese Voka, Dominiko Waqaniburotu, Peceli Yato
Frank Lomani, Nikola Matawalu, Henri Senioli, Serupepeli Vularika
Ben Volavola, Alivereti Veitokani
Levani Botia, Sevanaia Galala, Semi Radradra, Jale Vatubua,
Wingers: Vereniki Goneva, Filipo Nakosi, Waisea Nayacalevu, Patrick Osbourne, Eroni Sau, Josua Tuisova
Kini Murimurivalu, Seta Tuicuvu