Flying Fijians Northern Tour prospects: Forwards

Image Credit: Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images

The Flying Fijians are back in action on November 6th against Scotland to kick off their 2022 Autumn Nations Series. Head coach Vern Cotter is yet to reveal his selections so we thought we would go over the incumbents and contenders and let you know who we think are likely to be selected from 1 through to 8.

Cotter went with a heavy Fijian Drua contingent in the Pacific Nations Cup leaving out some big names in the process. The majority of the Fijian Drua squad have not played a match since the completion of their Super Rugby season with a handful in local competition, New Zealand’s NPC and Australia’s Shute Shield. Meanwhile European competitions are 4-6 weeks into their new seasons. This could be a factor in how he selects the next Flying Fijians squad.

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Loosehead Prop

Eroni Mawi (Saracens, Premiership) Has played every match since round 2 and holding his own in a star studded Saracens pack. Likely
Haereiti Hetet (Bay of Plenty, NPC) The Fijian Drua prop has played every week for the Steamers who are into the Semi Finals of the NPC. Likely

Kaliopasi Uluilakepa (Drua, Super Rugby) Pasi was a notable exclusion from the July tests. Hasn’t played since the end of the Super Rugby season but is the best loosehead yet to play for the Flying Fijians. Probable
Timoci Sauvoli (Drua, Super Rugby) Finished the year off strong with the Drua and is a possibility through injuries. Possible
Jone Koroiduadua (Fijian Drua, Super Rugby) 5 matches for the Drua this season. Possible
Meli Tuni (Drua, Super) Played two matches for the Drua and is active in local competition. Unlikely
Livai Natave (Suva/Fiji Warriors) Has trained with the squad and is a name to watch over the next few years. Unlikely

Two loosehead props were initially selected for the PNC with Suva prop Livai Natave joining the squad later in the competition. Vern Cotter’s non selection of Uluilakepa was a head scratcher but the Drua prop could be given an opportunity this time round.

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Tighthead Prop

Mesake Doge (Drua, Super Rugby) Last match was in the PNC. Now training with the Drua. No reason he won’t be there. Likely
Manasa Saulo (Drua, Super Rugby) Only question with the veteran prop is if Cotter starts him. Has been a standout this year. Likely
Luke Tagi (Provence, Pro D2) 2 tries in 5 matches to start his Pro D2 Season. Ever consistent in 2022, will hope for more game time in the Autumn tests. Likely

Samu Tawake (Drua, Super Rugby) Started 9 of his 12 Super Rugby matches. Is probably next man up. Probable
Lee Roy Atalifo (Edinburgh, URC) Is yet to play a match this season through the first 4 rounds although he has played the most top tier matches of any prop outside of the incumbents. Possible
Jone Tiko (Wests Bulldogs/Drua) Finished with a Qld Premier Rugby Title with Wests last month and is part of the Drua set up. Unlikely

Assuming everyone is available the 3rd spot will come down to Tagi or Tawake although Atalifo has always put his hand up and will do the job if called upon.

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Sam Matavesi (Northampton, Premiership) Our leading hooker and only injury or suspension will keep him out. Likely
Tevita Ikanivere (Drua, Super Rugby) Was amongst the Fiji Warriors best in the recent Pacific Challenge. Likely
Mesulame Dolokoto (Drua, Super Rugby) His versatility could get him into the side. Probable

Zuriel Togiatama (Counties Manukau/ Drua) – Just finished up with Counties Manukau in the NPC playing 9 matches and scoring 2 tries. Was unlucky not to be selected for the PNC. Probable
Peniami Narisia (Racing, Top 14) – Played 1 match off the bench for Racing in the new season. If Cotter opts to give the European contingent a bigger share of the selections, Narisia comes into the picture. Possible
Henry Spring (Stade Francais, Top 14) Is playing in the Stade Francais Academy team but did represent Fiji last year so if there’s enough injuries he could be given a call. Unlikely
Soane Vikena (Auckland/Blues) Has his sights on an All-Blacks jersey. Unlikely

Dolokoto is the question mark as he is neither our best hooker nor our best flanker but he is very effective around the park especially at the breakdown and would be very difficult to leave out. If Matavesi and Ikanivere stay injury free then the final spot will be between Togiatama or Dolokoto.

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Isoa Nasilasila (North Harbour, Drua) Is probably the first lock picked. Strong finish to the NPC season and played well in the Pacific Nations Cup. Likely
Api Ratuniyarawa (London Irish, Premiership) Just keeps on keeping on. The veteran hasn’t let up and is super consistent. Played every match this Premiership season. Likely
Temo Mayanavanua (Lyon, Top 14) Has played every match for Lyon this season alternating between the starting side and impact off the bench. Likely
Tevita Ratuva (Brive, Top 14) A strong showing for Fiji in the PNC although he hasn’t played a match in the Top 14 for the past month. Probable

Leone Nakarawa (Castres, Top 14) Isn’t lighting the world on fire but the veteran was one of Fiji’s best in 2021 against the All-Blacks despite also not playing many games prior to the Steinlegar Series. Probable
Lekima Tagitagivalu (Pau, Top 14) Has been one of our best backrowers still yet to play test rugby. Been knocking on the door the past 2 years. A flanker by trade who has been used as a lock the past 2 seasons for Pau. Probable
Ratu Rotuisolia (Drua, Super Rugby) Was selected in the original PNC squad and only injury robbed him of his international debut. Possible
Viliame Rarasea (Counties, Drua) Injury riddled year but a few injuries to other locks could bring him into the picture. Played 3 matches for Counties Manukau. Unlikely
Isaia Walker-Leawere (Hawkes Bay/Hurricanes) Has turned down Fiji before and still hopeful of an All-Blacks jersey.

With Nakarawa back in the picture and stating his desire to play at next years RWC, it makes the selection for lock a little more difficult as he’s been our leading second rower for nearly the past decade and one of the team’s leaders.

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Mesulame Kunavula (Edinburgh, URC) Is yet to play a game this URC season but was one of Fiji’s best at the PNC while he was on the field. Still a few weeks to go and could get some game time in. Likely
Rusiate Nasove (Drua, Super Rugby) Started all 3 matches for Fiji in July but all depends on if Vern Cotter will go with a heavy Drua contingent again. Probable
Kitione Kamikamica (Racing, Top 14) Started in 3 of the 4 matches he has played after round 6 of the Top 14. Covers flanker and number 8. Likely

Johnny Dyer (Biarritz, Pro D2) You would think Johnny Dyer is a walk-up start but the PNC proved otherwise. Our best breakdown man who is being used as a lock at club level. Is the only Fijian representative forward in Europe to play & start every match this season. Likely
Masivesi Dakuwaqa (Montpellier, Top 14) Has started his season well although alternating between flanker and centre. His versatility helps his case and made a positive impact in his debut Series last November. Probable
Peceli Yato (Clermont, Top 14) Expected back this month after a long layoff due to a knee operation. A fully healthy Yato is a must pick although his club would not be too excited at the prospect of him playing test rugby so soon. Possible
Josaia Raisuqe (Castres, Top 14) Is a regular for Castres usually off the bench. Coming off his best season where he transitioned from winger. Remains an outside chance. Possible
Meli Derenalagi (Drua, Super) Meli had a great year for the Drua and was unlucky to be injured in July. Could really be in the mix for a debut. Possible
Vilive Miramira (Drua, Super) Again one of the standouts when given an opportunity for the Drua. A definite prospect for the future. If not selected now then he will definitely be in the picture next year. Unlikely
Joseva Tamani (Drua, Super) Another notable omission from the PNC Squad. Has been playing in the Shute Shield for NHRU. Has the ability to cover flanker and lock. Possible
Kitione Salawa Jnr (Drua, Super) Like Miramira is one of our best young prospects and isn’t too far away from test selection at his current trajectory. Unlikely
Veveni Lasaqa (Bay of Plenty, NPC) Is in good form for the Steamers and starting to string some games together but may have his sights on a NZRU contract. Unlikely

Dyer can’t do anymore to get selected. Only politics keeps him out. Yato is in our strongest 23 if fit but is still yet to officially return. I think Kamikamica is the only certainty given Kunavula is yet to play in the new URC season.

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Number 8

Albert Tuisue (Gloucester, Premiership) One of our leading forwards. Only injury or suspension rules him out. Likely
Viliame Mata (Edinburgh, URC) Can’t see Mata being left out if fit. He’s made a successful return from a long term injury and has played 3 of 4 games this URC season scoring 1 try in his latest outing and named Edinburgh player of the match. Likely

Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta (Tasman/Drua) Played a full NPC season. Didn’t make his test debut in July after being named in the squad thanks to injury. Can play anywhere from lock to number 8. Probable
Nathan Hughes (Black Rams, League-One) The only thing keeping him out of the side is the same reason that kept him out of the PNC squad, which we don’t know. Possible
Nemani Nagusa (Drua, Super) The Fijian Drua captain has represented Fiji before and provides experience should there be injuries over the next few weeks. Unlikely

Tuisue and Mata are the obvious choices here. Tuisue covers all positions from 4-8 as does Cirikidaveta who is a probability depending on how many backrowers are selected.

Fiji were underwhelming in the Pacific Nations Cup despite a strong start to the tournament. It was the biggest turnover of players we have seen for some time. A bunch of Fijian Drua players were selected and to be fair we witnessed a Fijian Drua like performance through the final 2 games. The blend of Super Rugby and Europe based players didn’t bear fruit but 18 months from the World Cup Vern Cotter had to try something as the Flying Fijians results were quite predictable. Good enough on paper but ultimately falling short against Top tier teams.


Props – Eroni Mawi, Haereiti Hetet, Kaliopasi Uluilakepa | Mesake Doge, Manasa Saulo, Luke Tagi
Hookers – Sam Matavesi, Tevita Ikanivere, Zuriel Togiatama
Locks – Isoa Nasilasila, Temo Mayanavanua, Api Ratuniyarawa, Tevita Ratuva
Back row – Mesulame Kunavula, Johnny Dyer, Masivesi Dakuwaqa, Albert Tuisue, Viliame Mata

Agree with our predictions?

Let us know in the comments below if you agree or disagree with our predictions and who you would like to see in the squad.

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