Cavubati, Nakarawa to play locks in RWC opener

The pairing of Tevita Cavubati and Leone Nakarawa as locks for the opener against Australia is a foregone conclusion after manning those berths towards the end part of the Pacific Nations Cup and Tonga in the Pasifika challenge in Auckland.

Flying Fijians lock Tevita Cavubati reacts after Fiji scored a try against Wales in the 2015 RWC. Photo: Stuff

Cavubati who was rested in the Maori series and the match against the Brave Blossoms at the Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium came back strongly off the bench against Canada; then started with the number four jumper against Samoa in the last PNC match; and Tonga at Eden Park.

The Tubou native’s presence was immense against the Samoans holding his own with Nakarawa in the set pieces and displayed strong straight running with ball in hand. He played well against the Tongans with outstanding lineout abilities and mixing it with the hard-nosed Ikale Tahi Tongans in the hard and rough tumbles.

Nakarawa whose abilities in open field have won himself European and international club titles for several years in the forwards department and his offloads comes at all angles for supporting players to receive the ball at top speed. His outstanding contribution in the set pieces have set him apart where he will play a crucial role.

2015 Rugby World Cup starter 33-year-old Apisalome Ratuniyarawa has been sidelined for a few matches but can still play when needed off the bench.

New find lock forward Tevita Ratuva, 24, has fresh legs and the aerial skills at top speed which he showed coming off the bench in the PNC could be utilized in end of the play place kicks to the end zone.

Cavubati and Nakarawa who started and played well in the 21-14 defeat of France at Paris last November have a wealth of experience and will exude confidence which the team needs a lot of in the opening Rugby World Cup match.

Nakarawa has a wealth of experience.

The front row who will be named tomorrow; with a stipulation by World Rugby for team names to be announced at least 48 hours before kickoff; will see Manasa Saulo and Campese Ma’afu as props with Sam Matavesi as the hooker. 30-year-old Saulo has a wealth of experience as the lead commodity for the revival of the Fijian scrums but has aged considerably with the younger proponents Peni Ravai Kovekalou and Lee-roy Atalifo giving strong challenges to start.

Ma’afu, 34, brings a big grunt and competitive edge to the forwards but has been strongly competing for the number three jumper with hardworking 23-year-old Eroni Mawi. Mawi who has caught up with the game won two turnovers against France last November coming off the bench.

Matavesi has been a new revelation for the Flying Fijians bringing a strong work ethic and feistiness to the table and is willing to mix it with the bigger opposition when the chips are down. Mesu Dolokoto and Tuvere Vugakoto bring their own array of skills if called up to start or play off the bench.

The Pacific opponents Australia who have won two RWC titles in 1991 and 1999 have one of the best tight fives in the globe and will come into the game with confidence and expectation to roll Fiji over.

For Fiji to win and set the tone for a Japanese tournament success; the set pieces have to be spot on and if not emulate, improve on the 100 percent set piece ball retention in the 2015 version in the British Isles.

Compete for the ball during an Aussie breakdown and shut out the Australians by resourcing the Fijian ball carrier with plenty of support at the whiff of a breakdown.

Fiji knows what it takes to beat the Aussies and they have enough firepower to overcome them by at least 20 points.

Loose head prop Eroni Mawi won two turnovers against France last November coming off the bench. Photo: Fiji Rugby Union

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Filed under 2019 Rugby World Cup, Fiji, Flying Fijians, Focus on rwc, Japan, Opinion, Rugby World Cup, Wallabies, William Webb-Ellis Cup

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