Former All Blacks midfielder Seta Tamanivalu one of 10 new caps in Fiji squad

Iama All Blacks mezulo Seta Tamanivalu was included as one of 10 new caps in the Fiji squad for the upcoming Pacific Nations Cup.

Tamanivalu qualifies for Fiji under the new qualifying laws of World Rugby, whereby test-limited players can represent a second nation for which they are eligible for a first-born after a three-year withdrawal period.

Born and raised in Fiji, Tamanivalu played three tests for the All Blacks in 2016 before appearing in two non-tests in 2017, but has not played any international rugby since.

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That makes the 30-year-old Toshiba Brave Lupus star available for Fijian election, and he has been duly included in Vern Cotter’s 34-man squad to face Samoa, Tonga and Australia Next month.

Tamanivalu is joined by nine other players online to make their Test debuts for Fiji, who have all played for the Fiji Drua in their maiden Super Rugby Pacific campaign.

Those players are locks Isoa Nasilasila and Ratu Leone Rotuisolia, loose forwards Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta and Rusiate Nasovehalfback Peni Matawalumiddlemen Kalaveti Ravouvou and Apisalome Voteand outer backs Vinaya Habosi and Ilaisa Droasese.

Habosi, Vota and Ravouvou were special highlights for the Drua in their inauguration Super Rugby Pacific season, as was Cirikidaveta after joining the squad of New Zealand provincial side Tasman.

Those nine players make up more than half of the Drua contingent in the Fiji squad, with a further seven players from Mick Byrne’s squad making up the national side.

Those extra players are props Haereiti Hetet and Manasa Saulolovebirds Avoid Ikanivere and Mesu Dolokoto, half defenders Frank Lomani and Simione Kuruvoliand first-five Teti Tela.

Fiji will be commanded by La Rochelle star Levani Botiawho was listed as a loose forward despite having played his entire test career as a midfielder.

Botia is joined by other title names such as Lyon wing Joshua TuisovaStade Francais midfielder Waisea NayacalevuRace 92 first-five Ben VolavolaCastres mezulo Vilimoni Botitu and west Strength wing Manasa Mataele.

Among the notable absentees include Leicester Tiger wing Nemani Nadolo and Glasgow The military is locked up Leone Nakarawawhile undead Moana Pasifika wing Timoci Tavatavanawai could be seen as a major omission.

Tavatavanawai finished an impressive Super Rugby Pacific campaign with 73 defenders beaten, the most by any player in the competition and 17 more than second-placed Habosi.

Star utility back Semi Radradra also absent as one of eight front-line players – inclusive Peceli Yato, Viliame Mata, Meli Derenalagi, Kitione Salawa, Vilive MiramiraSamu Tawake and Peni Ravai – which were listed as unavailable due to injury.

Cotter said he is excited about the return of the Pacific Nations Cup, which has been revived for the first time since 2019, as Fiji continues its preparations for next year’s World Cup in France.

“The PNC series is extremely important to us. We are playing at home for the first time in a long time, and we want to do well,” Cotter said in a statement.

“Tonga has already named a very strong squad with returning internationals, and we know that Samoa will do that too.

“Australia A will send a good team of players who have just missed a selection for the Wallabies from Australian Super Rugby clubs who have done extremely well against the New Zealand sides this year.

“There is good depth in Australian rugby as well and everyone is fighting to impress the electorate.

“We also have our eyes on the bigger picture, and the PNC is a great opportunity for our players to put their hands up for a pick for the November North Tour where we play Scotland, Ireland and the French Barbarians.

“This is exactly the kind of challenge we need in preparation for the 2023 Rugby World Cup.”

Fiji will open its campaign against the Pacific Nations Cup Tongo in Suva on July 2 before hosting Australia A and Samoa in Lautoka on July 9 and July 16 respectively.

Fiji squad for 2022 Pacific Nations Cup

Supports: Mesake Doge (Dragons), Haereiti Hetet (Fiji Drua), Eroni Mawi (Saracens), Manasa Saulo (Fiji Drua), Luke Tagi (Provence)

Lovers: Mesulame Dolokoto (Fijian Drua), Tevita Kinavere (Fijian Drua), Sam Matavesi (Northampton Saints)

Locks: Mayanavanua theme (Lyon), Isoa Nasilasila (Fijian Drua) *, Apisalome Ratuniyarawa (Northampton Saints), Tevita Ratuva (Brive), Ratu Leone Rotusolia (Fijian Drua) *

Loose Forwards: Levani Botia (La Rochelle, captain), Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta (Fijian Drua) *, Mesulame Kunavula (Edinburgh), Rusiate Nasove (Fiji Drua) *, Albert Tuisue (London Irish)

Halfbacks: Simione Kuruvoli (Fijian Drua), Frank Lomani (Fijian Drua), Peni Matawalu (Fiji Drua) *

First Five: Teti Tela (Fiji Drua), Ben Volavola (Race 92)

Midfielders: Vilimoni Botitu (Castres), Waisea Nayacalevu (Stade Francais), Kalaveti Ravouvou (Fijian Drua) *, Seta Tamanivalu (Toshiba Brave Lupus) *, Apisalome Vote (Fiji Drua) *

Outer backs: Ilaisa Droasese (Fiji Drua) *, Vinaya Habosi (Fiji Drua) *, Manasa Mataele (western force), Setareki Tuicuvu (Brive), Joshua Tuisova (Lyon), Jiuta Wainiqolo (Toulon)


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