Stars stuck in Australia as Fiji reveal team for NZ clash
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Fiji named two-Test scrumhalf Simione Kuruvoli to start against the All Blacks in Dunedin on Saturday after Covid travel restrictions prevented World Cup veteran Frank Lomani from entering New Zealand.
Lomani and fellow halves Moses Sorovi and Teti Tela were left stranded in Queensland when New Zealand halted the trans-Tasman travel bubble following a fresh outbreak of Covid-19 in Australia.
Kuruvoli, who comes up against Aaron Smith in his 98th Test for the All Blacks, has “big shoes to fill”, coach Vern Cotter said when naming his side.
“But he has trained really well, speaks and connects well with Ben Volavola plus he’s got Kini Murimiruvalu at fullback who will also guide him.”
Brive utility Seta Tuicuvu will cover the fullback, flyhalf and scrumhalf roles.
Fiji’s preparation time, after coming out of quarantine six days ago, was not ideal “but when we see what’s happening in Fiji, we just want to play well and hopefully we will lift spirits on the island,” Cotter said, referring to the Covid-19 outbreak sweeping through the Pacific nation.
Peni Ravai, Sam Matavesi and Mesake Doge form the front row while Olympic sevens gold medallist Leone Nakarawa is at lock with Albert Tuisue from London Irish at the back.
“Leone Nakarawa coming back in the team has helped cohesion in the line-out and line-out calling as he brings experience,” Cotter said.
“We will need leadership and the forwards will have to be very good because we have to protect Simione Kuruvoli who is only having his second game with Fiji.”
“Our backline has always been a strength.”
The 32-Test Volavola will steer the side from flyhalf with Levani Botia and Waisea Nayacalevu in the midfield and strong runners Nemani Nadolo and Eroni Sau on the wings.
The 32-year-old Murimurivalu, who has played in the past three World Cups, is at fullback.
“We have been happy with the preparation, that hasn’t been ideal but when we see what’s happening in Fiji, we just want to play well and hopefully we will lift spirits on the island.”
Fiji: 15 Keni Murimurivalu, 14 Eroni Sau, 13 Waisea Nayacalevu, 12 Levani Botia (captain), 11 Nemani Nadolo, 10 Ben Volavola, 9 Simioni Kuruvoli, 8 Albet Tuisue, 7 Mesulame Kunavula, 6 Johnny Dyer, 5 Leone Nakarawa, 4 Temo Mayanavanua, 3 Mesake Doge, 2 Samuel Matavesi, 1 Peni Ravai.
Replacements: 16 Peni Narisia, 17 Haereiti Hetet, 18 Leeroy Atalifo, 19 Tevita Ratuva, 20 Peceli Yato, 21 Setareki Tuicuvu, 22 Eneriko Buliruarua, 23 Manasa Mataele.
Date: Saturday, June 10
Venue: Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin
Kick-off: 19.05 (19.05 FJT; 07.05 GMT)
Referee: Nic Berry (Australia)
Assistant referee: Damon Murphy (Australia), Graham Cooper (Australia)
TMO: Chris Hart (New Zealand)