Fiji cut elder statesman from RWC squad

The elder statesman of Fijian rugby, Seremaia Bai, is the notable omission after Fiji coach John McKee named his 31-man squad for the Rugby World Cup.

Fiji are in the so-called pool of death with England, Australia and Wales, and McKee said he had picked a squad which he was confident “will rise to the challenge”.

They go centre stage at the very start of the tournament, playing hosts England in the opening game.

Led by Montpellier flanker Akapusi Qera, the squad is dominated by overseas professionals with props Lee Roy Atalifo and Peni Ravai the only local amateurs to make the grade.

“With this talented group of rugby players, fiercely proud of representing their country, I believe we have a team of players who will bring their best game to the biggest contest in international rugby,” McKee said.

“It’s great to see Lee Roy and Peni making the selection. It’s not always easy for local players to set really high standards for themselves and to strive to reach the highest levels of the game.”

There is no shortage of confidence in the Fiji lineup after they beat Pacific rivals Samoa in the recent Pacific Nations Cup final to shoot up to ninth on the world rankings.

“After the successful Pacific Nations Cup campaign and current training camp here in Fiji the squad is working well towards the challenges ahead,” McKee said.

“Pool A is a very challenging pool and I have every confidence that this team will rise to the challenge and bring their best game to every match.”

McKee’s focus on form meant no room for the 36-year-old Bai, a veteran of 49 Tests.

Fiji squad:

Forwards: Lee Roy Atalifo (Suva), Isei Colati (Nevers), Campese Ma’afu (Pays D’Aix), Peni Ravai (Nadroga), Manasa Saulo (Timisoara), Sunia Koto (Narbonne), Tuapati Talemaitoga (Pays D’Aix), Viliame Veikoso (Doncaster), Tevita Cavubati (Ospreys), Leone Nakarawa (Glasgow Warriors), Api Ratuniyarawa (Agen), Nemia Soqeta (Biarritz), Sakiusa Masi Matadigo (Lyon), Akapusi Qera (capt, Montpellier), Malakai Ravulo (Farul Constanta), Netani Talei (Harlequins), Dom Waqaniburotu (Brive), Peceli Yato (Clermont).

Backs: Nemia Kenatale (Farul Constanta), Nikola Matawalu (Bath), Henry Seniloli (Treviso), Levani Botia (La Rochelle), Gabiriele Lovobalavu (Bayonne), Joshua Matavesi (Ospreys), Ben Volavola (Waratahs), Vereniki Goneva (Leicester), Kini Murimurivalu (La Rochelle), Nemani Nadolo (Crusaders), Waisea Nayacalevu (Stade Francais), Metuisela Talebula (Bordeaux), Asaeli Tikoirotuma (Harlequins)

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