McKee retains Maori victors

Forwards Semi Kunatani, Apisalome Ratuniyarawa and Kalivati Tawake defend against the Maori All Blacks at the ANZ Stadium in Suva. Photo: New Zealand Herald

The squad which dominated proceedings against the Maori All Blacks in Suva a fortnight ago has been retained for the opening World Rugby Pacific Nations Cup match against Japan.

Two changes in local loose head prop Eroni Mawi and winger Patrick Osbourne have been injected into the 27-10 victors with a few changes on the bench.

The 62 year winning record by the Maoris which was obliterated by that team had right winger Josua Tuisova who has been replaced by sibling Filipo Nakosi and Mawi’s predecessor Peni Ravai has been named on the bench. Tuisova who has proven his worth against the Maoris and the Northern tour last year has been rested.

The locks pairing of Albert Tuisue and Leone Nakarawa whose steady influence in the tight five and incisive running in open play return after taking a break in Rotorua.

Loose forwards skipper Dominiko Waqaniburotu, Semi Kunatani and number eight Viliame Mata who dominated in the breakdowns against the Kiwis will be a handful for the Brave Blossoms.

Powerful Clermont backrower Peceli Yato is named on the bench and the prospect of his introduction in the second half will be one of the attractions of the close encounter.

Ben Volavola returns at pivot for the Flying Fijians and will need to improve in his kicking with replacement Alifereti Veitokani kicking well in the return match against the Kiwis.

Veitokani has been named at number 15 and will be an attack thrust when needed in joining backline.

The return of Levani Botia and Waisea Nayacalevu in the middle will be lethal as witnessed in Suva with the added bonus of winning Kiwi break down balls.

Wingers Osbourne and Nakosi are great finishers and will easily breakdown the last line of defence when given a whiff of an opportunity.

Dynamic halfback Frank Lomani returns with his clean and quick delivery a steady source of attack options for the Fijians.

National coach John McKee has carefully selected the team against Japan and it seems like most of his first choice players have been named which proved victorious against the strong Kiwis.

The match has been scheduled at 5.50pm on Saturday (Fiji Time) with national television Fiji One reportedly covering the match from Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium in Japan.

Fiji Airways Flying Fijians 23: 1. Eroni Mawi; 2. Sam Matavesi; 3. Manasa Saulo; 4. Albert Tuisue; 5. Leone Nakarawa; 6. Dominiko Waqaniburotu (c); 7. Semi Kunatani; 8. Viliame Mata; 9. Frank Lomani; 10. Ben Volavola; 11. Patrick Osbourne; 12. Levani Botia; 13. Waisea Nayacalevu; 14. Filipo Nakosi; 15. Alivereti Veitokani

Reserves: 16. Mesulame Dolokoto; 17. Peni Ravai; 18. Lee-Roy Atalifo; 19. Apisalome Ratuniyarawa; 20. Peceli Yato; 21. Henry Seniloli; 22. Jale Vatubua; 23. Josh Matavesi

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Filed under Flying Fijians, Japan, World Rugby Pacific Nations Cup

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