Veitokani replaces Volavola

After four years of a stranglehold as pivot for the Flying Fijians, a new flyhalf in Alifereti Veitokani has been named for the return match against the Maori All Blacks in Rotorua.
Ben Volavola who was thrown in the cauldron of battle against England in the opening match of the 2015 Rugby World Cup in Twickenham was a surprise inclusion to fans.
With Josh Matavesi playing remarkably well at the pivot winning Fiji’s 2015 World Rugby Pacific Nations Cup with a 39-29 final win against Manu Samoa at Swagard Stadium in Barnaby, British Columbia, he was expected to start.
Volavola who was almost 100 percent with his kicking in the WRPNC a month away from the RWC was expected to run in at number 15, but he was named at number 10 instead.
Since his baptism in that 11-35 loss to hosts England, coach John McKee has seen Volavola steadily grew into the position and claimed the number 10 jersey as his own.
He had accumulated the caps through the years at the number 10 spot with Matavesi almost lost to memory after losing that position at the 2015 showcase.
It is quite interesting that Matavesi is named on the bench at number 23 and may have a chance to redeem himself towards the latter stages of the Rotorua clash on Saturday night.
Veitokani who moved to number 10 from his starting fullback’s berth played well and enjoys mixing his options of passing and attacking the opposition last week against the Maori in Suva.
He played in the number 10 position for the Fijian Drua who won the Australian National Rugby Championship in 2018 before he was contracted in the Gallagher Premiership with London Irish as a fullback.
Volavola whose kicking skills were one of his strengths when he started as a Flying Fijian has waned over the years with an easy missed penalty against the Maori last Saturday at the opening minutes; a big disappoinment.
The number 10 jersey has been Volavola’s since 2015 so the logic could be McKee forecasting a future number 10 and possible injury with a replacement in mind during the RWC, or the option of an attacking pivot with Veitokani and Matavesi in mind.
The combination in the centres with the return of Jale Vatubua with Waisea Nayacalevu will be strong in defence and with their speed and power creative on attack.
Filipo Nakosi proved himself last week as an able finisher at number 11 with right wideout Patrick Osborne playing for Kubota Spears in the Japanese premier championship will be freshly tuned for a great turnout.
Osborne, who opted to play for Fiji after being on the fringe for the All Blacks, pulled on the white strip for the WRPNC in 2016 severing ties with New Zealand after several years of Super Rugby with the Crusaders and Highlanders.
Kini Murimurivalu has the opportunity at fullback to be included in the 31-member squad for Japan in this game and has been a faithful member of the Flying Fijians for a number of years.
Halfback Henry Seniloli has a brazen atttitude for attacks for the Flying Fijians but has a tendency to lockup too many forwards for simple base of the scrum skills in kicking and manouvres.
Number 21 Serupepeli Vularika has a chance to showcase his abilities as a replacement in the second half. Frank Lomani who has almost cemented his position after the Maori match in Suva will be accompanied with another halfback for Japan with Nikola Matawalu still to show his current form later in the World Rugby Pacific Nations Cup fixtures.
Skipper Dominiko Waqaniburotukula will lead from the front with veterans Campese Ma’afu, Leeroy Atalifo, Nemani Nagusa and Apisalome Ratuniyarawa ably rounding up the forwards charge.
Newcomers Veremalua Vugakoto, Tevita Ratuva and Mosese Voka will be putting their hands up for a chance to play in the big stage later on in the WRPNC and the RWC.
The Maori will be hurting from last week and will be out to reassert themselves as the best indigenous team in the region. The team no doubt would have received strong persuasion by the New Zealand Rugby administration to avenge Fiji’s win last week.
Fiji Airways Flying Fijians Squad: 1. Campese Ma’afu, 2. Veremalua Vugakoto, 3. Lee-Roy Atalifo, 4.Tevita Ratuva, 5. Apisalome Ratuniyarawa, 6. Dominiko Waqaniburotu (c), 7. Mosese Voka, 8. Nemani Nagusa, 9. Henry Seniloli, 10. Alivereti Veitokani, 11. Filipo Nakosi, 12. Jale Vatubua, 13. Waisea Nayacalevu, 14. Patrick Osbourne, 15. Kini Murimurivalu
Reserves: 16. Samuel Matavesi, 17. Joeli Veitayaki, 18. Luke Tagi, 19. Albert Tuisue, 20. John Dyer, 21. Serupepeli Vularika, 22. Sevanaia Galala, 23. Josh Matavesi

Maori All Blacks on the warpath to avenge the loss to Fiji in Suva. Photo: Getty Images

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Filed under All Blacks, Fiji, Flying Fijians, Maori All Blacks

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