Preview: Samoa v Fiji

Fiji have ten new caps in their matchday squad of 24 for this match, which brings many players from the new Pacific Rugby Cup – which finished a fortnight ago with Upolu Samoa crowned champions – together.

Fourteen of the players selected to travel to the Samoan capital of Apia on Tuesday have played for either Fiji Barbarians or Fiji Warriors in the tournament.

The others play their rugby overseas in New Zealand, Japan, Australia and England with one of these – flanker Alifereti Doviverata – named as Fiji captain for the Pacific Nations Cup campaign by coach coach Ilivasi Tabua.

Ten players are uncapped with full back Taniela Rawaqa the youngest member of the squad having only turned 21 at the end of April. Tabua has named two other 21 year-olds in fly half Waisale Luveniyali and centre Gabiriele Lovobalavu.

The selection also shows Fiji’s desire to build for the future with half of the squad from the country’s IRB High Performance Unit and academy programme, something that pleased HPU Manager Peter Murphy.

“It is very exciting to see that we have 11 HPU players and two academy players in the 30,” Murphy told The Fiji Times.

“The onus has been to develop local players for the future and this is the chance to expose them for the future.”

Tabua added: “I am happy with those who have been selected. Although we don’t have all our top players available as yet, I’m sure these players have the capability of doing Fiji proud.”

There was one downside for Tabua as wing Sekove Leawere suffered a fractured fibula and dislocated ankle after being carried off early in the trials last weekend.

Meanwhile, Samoa coach Michael Jones has opted for experience for the match, having named a squad involving the likes of overseas-based stars Brian Lima, Semo Sititi and Lome Fa’atau.

Lima is a legend of Samoan rugby, having played in every single match the islanders have played in Rugby World Cup history and is targeting a record fifth tournament in 2007, while number eight Sititi captained Samoa in the 2003 tournament.

Fa’atau is one of four players involved in this year’s Super 14 to make the squad, the others being his Hurricanes team mate Mahroni Schwalger and Highlanders pair Kane Thompson and Filipo Levi.

However Jones has not forgotten the players based at home with 10 rewarded for their performances in the IRB Pacific Rugby Cup, including Donal Kerslake, Muliufi Salanoa, Alapasa Cordtz, Notise Tauafao, Josh Keil and Paletuatoa Toelupe who helped Upolu Samoa succeed Savai’i Samoa as champions earlier this month.

Samoa:

Forwards:
Donald Kerslake (Upolu Samoa), Naama Leleimalefaga (Savai’i Samoa), Fosi Palaamo (Leinster, Ireland), Mahonri Schwalger (Hurricanes, Super 14), Muliufi Salanoa (Upolu Samoa), Joe Tekori (Auckland NPC), Kane Thompson (Highlanders, Super 14), Leo Lafaiali’i (NEC, Japan), Filipo Levi (Highlanders, Super 14), Justin Purdie (Wellington, NPC), Ulia Ulia (Savai’i Samoa), Alapasa Cordtz (Upolu Samoa), Semo Sititi (Docomo, Japan), Alfie Toala (Bristol, England);

Backs: Steven So’oialo (NEC Harlequins, England), Notise Tauafao (Upolu Samoa), Josh Keil (Upolu Samoa), Loki Crichton (Newcastle Falcons, England), Brian Lima (Bristol, England), Gavin Williams (Connacht, Ireland), Anetelea Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers, England), David Lemi (Bristol, England), Esera Lauina (Savai’i Samoa), Lome Faatau (Hurricanes, Super 14), Tauvaga Faafou (Savai’i Samoa), Paletuatoa Toelupe (Upolu Samoa).

Fiji squad:

Forwards:
Alifereti Doviverata (c), Alefoso Yalayalatabua, Sunia Koto, Apisai Turukawa, Tiko Matawalu, Bill Gadolo, Graham Dewes, Langi Peters, Wame Lewaravu, Kele Leawere, Netani Talei, Akapusi Qera, Tomasi Soqeta.
Backs:
Seveci Taka, Vitori Buatava, Jack Prasad, Waisea Luveniyali, Dan Baleinadogo, Epeli Ruivadra, Gabiriele Lovobalavu, Vereniki Goneva, Vesi Raul

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