Preview: Maori All Blacks v Fiji
ROUND TWO: Fiji Rugby Head Coach John McKee has named a formidable Fiji 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.
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT 📢💪🏾
Here are your Fiji Airways Flying Fijians all set to tackle the Maori All Blacks this Saturday night in Rotorua.
Stay tuned for broadcast details!#itsfijistime pic.twitter.com/NZWexyQwFg
— Fiji Rugby Union (@fijirugby) July 18, 2019
Maori All Blacks Head Coach Clayton McMillan has retained faith in the playing 23 that played Fiji in Suva last week, despite a disappointing loss. In addition to a few positional changes, the main switch in this week’s team sees five of last week’s reserves pick up starting positions in Rotorua this weekend.
Among them are loose forward Whetukamokamo Douglas and halfback Bryn Hall, who along with Alex Nankivell, Jordan Hyland, and the lofty Pari Pari Parkinson will all run on for the Maori All Blacks this week. They swap with Akira Ioane, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, Fletcher Smith and Teihorangi Walden who join hooker Nathan Harris as critical impact players from the bench.
Pouri Rakete-Stones has been bracketed alongside Haereiti Hetet.
“We came away from that game in Suva knowing we had a lot to work on, but actually there were some really positive things for us to take out of that match.
“The focus for us this week has been to sharpen our combinations and obviously we need to have a solid defence as well as an assertive attacking game if we are going to get the better of Fiji.
“They (Fiji) are a highly skilled and organised side. We will want to show more of our flair, but we have to nail our structure upfront if we want to be competitive.
“This is a special match for many of us who have never experienced the Maori All Blacks playing at home in front of our whanau and friends. We are very excited about having home crowd advantage and we really hope our supporters come out in force on Saturday,” he said.
Maori All Blacks: 15 Shaun Stevenson, 14 Jordan Hyland, 13 Rob Thompson, 12 Alex Nankivell. 11 Sean Wainui, 10 Otere Black, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Whetukamokamo Douglas, 7 Mitch Karpik, 6 Reed Prinsep, 5 Pari Pari Parkinson, 4 Tom Franklin, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Ash Dixon, 1 Ross Wright.
Replacements: 16 Nathan Harris, 17 Haereiti Hetet, 18 Marcel Renata, 19 Isaia Walker-Leawere, 20 Akira Ioane, 21 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi , 22 Fletcher Smith, 23 Teihorangi Walden.
Fiji: 15 Kini Murimurivalu, 14 Patrick Osbourne, 13 Waisea Nayacalevu, 12 Jale Vatubua, 11 Filipo Nakosi, 10 Alivereti Veitokani, 9 Henry Seniloli, 8 Nemani Nagusa, 7 Mosese Voka, 6 Dominiko Waqaniburotu, 5 Apisalome Ratuniyarawa, 4 Tevita Ratuva, 3 Lee-Roy Atalifo, 2 Veremalua Vugakoto, 1 Campese Ma’afu
Replacements: 16 Samuel Matavesi, 17 Joeli Veitayaki, 18 Luke Tagi, 19 Albert Tuisue, 20 John Dyer, 21 Serupepeli Vularika, 22 Sevanaia Galala, 23 Josh Matavesi
Date: Saturday, July 20
Venue: Rotorua International Stadium, New Zealand
Kick-off: 19.35 (08.35 GMT)
Referee: Nic Berry (Australia)
Assistant referees: Damon Murphy (Australia), Jordan Way (Australia)
TMO: James Leckie (Australia)
🚨 TEAM NAMING | The #MaoriAllBlacks have been named for this weekend’s rematch against Fiji in Rotorua.
— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) July 18, 2019