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Fiji Rugby head coach John McKee has named a formidable Flying Fijians side for their final Pacific Series Test match against the Maori All Blacks in Rotorua on Saturday.
With so much depth in the squad, McKee has made ten changes to its run on side which defeated the Maori All Blacks 27-10 at Suva’s ANZ Stadium last weekend.
McKee said they expect a different and challenging match against the Maori All Blacks.
He added “The host team will want to bounce back on their home territory and turn the tables on us.”
Veteran Prop Campese Ma’afu makes his start for this season together with Naitasiri prop Ratu Veremalua Vugakoto and Lee-Roy Atalifo in the front row.
Former Fiji Under-20 rep Tevita Ratuva will partner up with Apisalome Ratuniyarawa in the locks while Fiji Airways Drua captain Mosese Voka will be on the flanks.
Henry Seniloli starts at half-back and Alivereti Veitokani shifts to fly-half position. Jale Vatubua and Patrick Osbourne return to boost the Flying Fijians fast pace backline.
McKee said it’s important to give all the players the game time ahead of the World Rugby Pacific Nations Cup and the Rugby World Cup in Japan.
“It was always the intention across these two matches to give players in our squad opportunity and game time in the lead up to the PNC.”
“It is important that these players grab this chance and make a strong statement,” Coach McKee said.
McKee said wintry conditions in Rotorua would mean quite a different match to the hard, fast and dry ANZ Stadium last weekend.
“We will need to be very patient with the ball to build pressure on the New Zealand Maori. Last week although we made many line breaks we turned over too much ball,” McKee revealed.
“Ball retention and continuity to build pressure and create scoring opportunities when we are in possession along with our consistent work rate and discipline in our defensive system will be the two most important factors for us in this match,” McKee added.
Fiji Rugby Chief Executive John O’Connor said the players selected for this weekend’s match have the opportunity to stake a spot in the final 31 member squad for RWC in Japan.
“The team understands that we want to improve in every match and are targeting nothing than a win this week so we can continue to build momentum ahead of the PNC.” O’Connor added.
The Fiji Airways Flying Fijians face Maori All Blacks at 7.35pm (NZ Time) at Rotorua International Stadium on Saturday.
Fiji Airways Flying Fijians Squad:
16. Samuel Matavesi
17. Joeli Veitayaki
18. Luke Tagi
19. Albert Tuisue
20. John Dyer
21. Serupepeli Vularika
22. Sevanaia Galala
23. Josh Matavesi.
Meanwhile, Flying Fijians captain Dominiko Waqaniburotu is looking forward to their final Pacific Series Test match against the Maori Blacks in Rotorua tomorrow.
Waqaniburotu said they have made a perfect start to their Rugby World Cup campaign beating Maori All Blacks 27-10 and hope they can carry the momentum forward.
“It was a good game against the Maori All Blacks last weekend but that’s past and now we are focused on our next match against them at their home turf.”
He said with so much depth in the squad all the players are ready to give their best shot against any team they play in the coming weeks.
“All the players are looking forward to the match and they will give their best against the Maori All Blacks. We have also had some injuries in the team and the coach wants to give game time to more players this weekend” he said.
After returning to captaincy role last year, the former Marist Brothers High School student has played a vital role in the team.
Under his guidance the Fiji Airways Flying Fijians managed to record a historic 21-14 win over France in the November tour and also defeated the Maoris All Blacks after 62-years last weekend in Suva.
Waqaniburotu said the senior players have always helped him in guiding the team on and off the field.
He highlighted “I have a very good bunch of players with me. The experience players like Vereniki Goneva and Leone Nakarawa have always helped me during our camps and against our opponents.”
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