The FRU have announced players #23-27 for the Fijian Drua 2022 Campaign. They will join the already announced 22 players to form a side that Drua CEO Brian Thorburn says has “youth, vibrancy and experience”.
Headlining the list of announcements is Flying Fijians veteran Manasa Saulo. The two time Rugby World Cup loosehead prop has is so far the most experienced player in the squad and second oldest behind Nemani Nagusa. He has 47 test caps for the National side.
Saulo is well travelled and has played his rugby in Romania, France, England and recently the US. He brings a wealth of experience and will also act as a mentor for the younger forwards in the team.
25 Year old tight head prop Samuela Tawake is an exciting prospect for the Drua. Tawake captained the Marist Brothers 1st XV, is a former Fiji Under 20’s rep and also has 1 test cap to his name. His former clubs include Canterbury and Manawatu in the NPC and his last stint in the MLR with Rugby United New York where he scored 4 tries in 16 matches for the 2021 season. Tawake brings power, grunt and athleticism to the Drua pack. He is most likely within the matchday 23 come February.
Like father like son
Drua player #025 is backrower Kitione Salawa Jnr. The son of former Fiji Sevens and 15’s rep Kitione Salawa who represented Fiji at the 2003 Rugby World Cup. Salawa Jnr captained the Fiji Schoolboys 7’s team in 2019, Nadi Under 20’s and was part of the Fiji Sevens squad in the lead up to the Tokyo Olympics. The Namotomoto, Nadi native grew up idolising Semi Kunatani and has his sights on the 2023 Rugby World Cup, a 20 years after his father played at the RWC.
From Skipper Cup to Super Rugby
Local product and Suva’s skipper cup winning lock Sorovakatini Tuifagalele is one of the best local prospects and will bring his hard running, athletic abilities, physicality and “try-scoring prowess” to the squad. The rangy lock was part of the Fijian Latui in the now defunct Global Rapid Rugby competition.
CEO Thorburn say’s it’s a “proud moment for all of us at the Fijian Drua and Fiji Rugby when someone like Sorovakatini, who’s a homegrown talent is rewarded with a professional contract”
Bigtime for Joseva
Rounding off the list of 5 forwards announced is Drua #027 Joseva Tamani. He has previously played for Ovalau in the Vodafone Vanua Cup, the Melbourne Rising in the NRC, more recently the Hunter Wildfires in the Shute Shield where he had a stellar season in 2021 and also was part of the NSW Waratahs wider squad at the backend of Super Rugby Trans Tasman. Tamani is an athletic, agile and speedy loose forward who comes highly regarded. He is definitely one of the players to watch.
The Drua have pushed back their departure by a week due to covid related issues and will set sail on the 23rd of October for their base that should be announced in the coming days. CEO Thorburn revealed they are working on the final pieces and getting the contract in place. They expect to be out of Quarantine by the 7th of November and begin preparations.
The FRU revealed they will have their 2022 draw by the end of the week. They will then proceed to make arrangements regarding venues.
Coaches to be announced
The wider coaching panel will be announced Wednesday or Friday by the latest. Thorburn wouldn’t commit to answering if they are looking at local coaches to join head coach Mick Byrne and Head of Athletic Performance Naca Cawanibuka.
Final player reveal
Thorburn mentioned that they will cap the player announcements at 31 or 32 by the end of the week with a further 8 or 9 players to join them making it a squad of 40.
Click on the image below to see the Drua Depth Chart as it stands