Flying Fijians Northern Tour prospects: Backs

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We take a look at the backs who are likely to play in the 2022 Autumn Nations Series for the Flying Fijians. Click here if you missed the forwards article.


Frank Lomani (Drua, Super) Hasn’t played since the PNC and is still our leading halfback. Likely
Peni Matawalu (Drua, Super) Played all 3 PNC games as the backup halfback off the bench. Many were calling for him to start. Likely
Simione Kuruvoli (Drua, Super) Big performances for the Fiji Warriors in August. Assuming Lomani starts Kuruvoli is 1 of 3 halfbacks looking to fit into 2 spots. Likely

Moses Sorovi (Wests/Rebels) While his 2022 Super Rugby season was his least productive he played a big role in the Wests Bulldogs Premiership run and Cotter has been happy to bring him into the squad over the past 18 months. Probable
Issak Fines-Leleiwasa (Perth-Bayswater/Force) Played in the WA Rugby competition that ended in September. His Super Rugby season was cut short due to injury but prior to that was having a break-out season. Is starting halfback calibre and has stated previously he would like to play for the Flying Fijians. Possible
Cameron Nordli-Kelemeti (Falcons/Premiership) Has played 3 of the Falcons 5 games. Is also starting calibre or provides great impact off the bench. Will really shake things up in the halfback ranks should he give Cotter the thumbs up. Possible

Lomani may be the only certainty here. Vern Cotter has tried to tempt Nordli-Kelemeti and time will tell if the Newcastle halfback represents Fiji. Leleiwasa is another player coming off his best Super Rugby season. A tough one to pick given Kuruvoli was very good for the Warriors while Matawalu played all 3 PNC matches.

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Ben Volavola (Racing, Top 14) Has played two games off the bench for Racing over the first month. Will be in the side barring injury or suspension. Likely
Teti Tela (Drua, Super) His PNC ended with injury but played in the Qld Hospital Cup and is a certainty if fit. Likely

Josh Matavesi (Shokki Shuttles, League One) In preseason at the moment. Had a successful first year in Japan winning Division 3. Still has a lot to offer and can play 12 and 15. Unlikely
Alivereti Veitokani (Drua, Super) While Vilimoni Botitu is probably the 3rd string fly-half, Freddy Veitokani could be roped in if there’s enough injuries. Unlikely
Kemu Valetini (Manly, Shute Shield) He’s name is starting to do the rounds on social media with rumours of the Australian based fly-half joining the Drua. Is yet to play in top tier competition but a player to watch over the next 12 months. Unlikely
Peni Kadralevu (Nadroga/Fiji Warriors) One of our best local prospects. Kadralevu is coming off a successful two game series with the Fiji Warriors. Still early days for the young playmaker but could definitely shoot up the ranks in the next few years. Unlikely

Outside of Volavola and Tela, there isn’t a Top tier fly half available for Fiji. Matavesi has the experience and is coming off a very good season in Japan albeit Division 3 but he looks a class above the opposition.

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Jiuta Wainiqolo (Toulon, Top 14) Was our best winger in the PNC and is our form winger at the moment. Likely
Vinaya Habosi (Drua, Super) Only thing keeping him out is how Cotter picks the side but is certainly in our strongest 15. The Northern Hemisphere may not be ready for the Bossman. Likely
Manasa Mataele (Canterbury/Force) Consistent, reliable and has done nothing to hurt his chances. Is in the hunt for NPC glory with Canterbury. Likely
Josua Tuisova (Lyon, Top 14) Back from injury playing the last 3 matches for LOU. Didn’t have the best PNC campaign but is still a world class back who covers centre as well. Likely

Nemani Nadolo (Leicester, Premiership) Still has plenty to offer and could provide great impact off the bench. 3 of 5 matches to start the season with 2 tries. Possible
Aminiasi Tuimaba (Pau, Top 14) Is yet to play a match this Top 14 season. Probable
Eroni Sau (Provence, Pro D2) Out with injury since round 1 of the Pro D2 season. Before his last match against Wales last year for Fiji, he was one of our most dangerous players. Possible
Filipo Nakosi (Castres, Top 14) The Fiji jersey has eluded the powerful back since the 2019 RWC but has been in a solid form over the past 2 years. Has played every match this season for the 2021/2022 Grand Finalists. Possible
Sefa Naivalu (Stade Francais, Top 14) Has been in good form to start the season and covers centre just as well. Unlikely
Onisi Ratave (Benetton, URC) Has played 1 of 3 games to start his season with Benetton but was previously called into the Fiji squad in 2021. He has since become a household name and if there’s a few injuries he could definitely come into the mix. Unlikely
Selestino Ravutaumada (Drua, Super) Outside of Habosi, he started the most games for the Drua of all their wingers. Unlikely
Timoci Tavatavanawai (Tasman/Moana Pasifika) Largely depends on contractual status. Was one of the big names missing from the PNC after a breakout Super Rugby season. Played a full NPC season for Tasman. Possible
Jona Nareki (Otago/Highlanders) Highly unlikely but a super talent that falls outside the 3 year stand-down period. Unlikely
Mosese Dawai (Waikato/Highlanders) Played a full NPC season but like Tavatavanawai, contractual obligations come into play. Unlikely
Kini Naholo (Taranaki/Crusaders) Same boat as Tavatavanawai and Mosese Dawai. Unlikely
Peniasi Malimali (Counties, NPC) Yet to play top tier rugby but could become a serious contender in the next 24 months. Unlikely
Alivereti Duguivalu (Perpignan, Top 14) Has played 5 of 6 games to open the Top 14 season. Can play centre and is a consistent performer for Perpignan despite their struggles. Unlikely
Setareki Bituniyata (Brive, Top 14) Only 1 match to start the season and will need a few injuries to get an opportunity. Unlikely
Siva Naulago (Bristol, Premiership) Still on the injured list and on England’s radar. Unlikely
Vereniki Tikoisolomone (Taranaki/Highlanders) 5 matches in the NPC mostly in the back end of the season. Contractual status for next season uncertain but could climb up the ranks in the next 2 years. Unlikely
Asaeli Tuivuaka (Racing, Top 14) Still finding his feet in the Top 14. Unlikely
Noa Nakaitaci (Lyon, Top 14) Isn’t a regular for Lyon but has test experience. Unlikely
Kitione Ratu (Drua, Super Rugby) Can cover fullback but is still early in his development. Unlikely
Taqele Naiyaravoro (Green Rockets, League One) Still in pre-season but will come into contention for the RWC. Unlikely

Many options but realistically players outside of the incumbents will find it hard to get a jersey barring injury. Wainiqolo and Habosi are arguably our best wingers this year and Mataele has been right on their tails. Tuisova is an elite winger so it’s a very tough quartet to break if all are available.

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Setariki Tuicuvu (Brive, Top 14) Also covers centre & wing. Good bench value if not starting. Played every game at either centre or wing to start to the Top 14 season. Likely

Kini Murimurivalu (Leicester, Premiership) 3 matches to start the Premiership season. Still in the frame. Possible
Ilaisa Droasese (Drua, Super Rugby) Was in the PNC squad and while he didn’t play a match the fact that Cotter included him is a sign he has future plans for the Drua winger/fullback. Possible
Semesa Rokoduguni (Montauban, Pro D2) A winger by trade who played a lot of fullback in the past. A reliable, experienced back with test experience although moving to the Pro D2 could hurt his chances. Possible
Wame Naituvi (Stade Montois, Pro D2) Been in excellent form the past 3 years and is knocking on the door. A move to the Top 14 next year could bring him right into the picture. Unlikely
Emoni Narawa (Bay of Plenty/Chiefs) A name constantly thrown around as our best fullback not playing for Fiji. Has been in hot form this NPC season but a new NZRU contract could be harder to come by should he opt to represent his home nation. Possible
Chay Fihaki (Canterbury/Crusaders) Growing as a player and has a high ceiling. New Zealand born making it a little easier to play for Fiji and Super Rugby for a NZ franchise but probably has his eye on a future All-Blacks jersey. Unlikely
Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens (Taranaki/Blues) An interesting pick. Has players like Will Jordan in front of him for a future All-Blacks jersey which brings him right into the mix for Fiji. Could have a lengthy test career in the Flying Fijians 15. Possible
Isaac Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens (Taranaki) While highly unlikely his appearances in the NPC this year have shown he would be worth a look for the Drua and may come into the picture in the future. Unlikely
Salesi Rayasi (Auckland/Blues) Falls outside the 3 year stand down period and will find it difficult to make into the All-Blacks for the next RWC. Covers wing but is injured at the moment. Unlikely

Vern Cotters selection of Droasese and trialling of Manasa Mataele at fullback in the PNC suggests he is after a bigger body in the 15 jersey. Unless Narawa gives Fiji the green light I don’t see anyone pushing Tuicuvu out of the starting jersey.

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Inside Centre

Levani Botia (La Rochelle, Top 14) Made his return from injury last weekend starting at 12. One of the captains of the side, only injury keeps him out. Likely
Vilimoni Botitu (Castres, Top 14) Starting centre for Castres has been in great form all year. Played fullback off the bench and also started at 12 in the PNC. Likely
Kalaveti Ravouvou (Drua, Super) Started against Tonga in Fiji’s only PNC win. Likely to be selected unless Drua players are rested for this series. Probable

Jale Vatubua (Pau, Top 14) Has started all his matches in the Top 14 this season. Hasn’t played for Fiji since the 2019 RWC but still in the picture. Possible
Apisai Naqaliva (Clermont, Top 14) Injured and yet to play this season. Made his test debut last year and showed positive signs in his short stint. Can play 13 just as well. Unlikely
Eneriko Buliruarua (Bayonne, Top 14) Was one of the best players on the park in Fiji’s second test against the All-Blacks. Hasn’t been given much of an opportunity since. Unlikely
Joel Matavesi (Northampton, Premiership) Enough injuries brings him into the picture. 2 matches and 1 try to start the season for the Saints. Unlikely
Kolinio Ramoka (Agen, Pro D2) Very underrated player who has been one of our best in the Pro D2 this year. Has a lot of players in front of him but wouldn’t look out of place in a Fiji jersey. Unlikely
Tuidraki Samusamuvodre (Drua, Super) Covers any position from 10-15. Could be a factor next year. Unlikely

Botitu and Botia are our leading inside centres with Tamanivalu capable of covering in case of injury.

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Outside Centre

Waisea Nayacalevu (Toulon, Top 14) Man of the match in his return last weekend. Has been great all year, one of the first picked for Fiji. Likely
Seta Tamanivalu (Toshiba, League One) Very good in the PNC and looks set to be a regular in the Fiji team but could be rested this series. Probable

Apisalome Vota (Drua, Super) Was part of the PNC squad and was one of the Drua’s best this season. Very good for the Fiji Warriors in August. Could be given an opportunity this time round. Probable
Adrea Cocagi (Castres, Top 14) Usually alternating between 12 and 13 for Castres. 5 games and 2 tries to start the season. Been knocking on the door the past 2 years. Possible
Sireli Maqala (Bayonne, Top 14) One of our form players in 2022. Can’t do anymore to be selected. Is a serious contender and our best prospect yet to make his test debut. Probable
Semi Radradra (Bristol, Premiership) Yet to return from injury although expected back within the next month. Too early you would think. Unlikely
Adrian Sanday (Provence, Pro D2) Can play fullback. Deserves to be in a tier 1 competition. Too many players in front of him. Unlikely
Levia Aumua (Tasman, Moana Pasifika) Selected for All-Blacks XV. While not capturing his eligibility, he is now likely to concentrate on making the All-Blacks for the World Cup. Unlikely
Brayden Wiliame (Perpignan, Top 14) Is yet to stamp his mark on the Top 14 but could become a factor in the next 12 months.

A position stacked with talent. Nayacalevu, Tamanivalu and Vota leading the way but with Radradra coming back from injury and Maqala’s rise in the past 18 months, selections will only get tougher for coach Cotter.

Our predictions



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