Big Hitters Return for Fiji’s Japan Clash
Fiji have brought back in a number of star names for their opening Pacific Nations Cup match and could rise in the world rankings with a win
Fijian head coach John McKee has made 11 changes to his side that were defeated 26-17 by the Maori All Blacks last weekend for Saturday’s clash with Japan.
The fixture, which opens up both sides Pacific Nations Cup campaigns has seen returns to the starting XV for key names such as Levani Botia, Viliame Mata and Ben Volavola.
Only blindside flanker Dominiko Waqaniburotu, centre Waisea Nayacalevu and wingers Filipo Nakosi and Patrick Osborne retain their places in the team.
McKee is delighted to name such an experienced side as the nation prepare for the Rugby World Cup in September.
“We’re getting further down our journey towards Rugby World Cup and have a stronger understanding of our game plans and our systems. I’m thrilled to have been able to name such a strong squad for the match against Japan,” he said.
As well as the stars there is a place in the team for local player Eroni Mawi, who starts at loosehead prop and McKee stands by his selection.
“Mawi deserves selection. He’s an up and coming player that has been drafted for a number of test matches as a reserve and this is his opportunity to show what he has in the starting team this Saturday,” he added.
McKee also thinks that the key to beating the World Cup’s host nation this weekend will be his side’s ability to dominate the game physically.
“We did that against the Maori All Blacks in Suva. It is important that we repeat that type of dominance against Japan. They will play a very up tempo and a very fast game so we need to work very hard in our defensive system and effort to deny Japan opportunities to score,” finished up.
The game could be of more significance than just simply opening up their Pacific Nations campaign as a win by 15 points or more will see the high-flying Fijians overtake eighth placed France in the world rankings.
Following this week’s game Fiji will play Canada and Samoa in the tournament, before facing Tonga in Auckland in their last World Cup warm-up game.
They open up their World Cup campaign on September 21st against the Wallabies and will be looking to cause an upset at this year’s edition of the tournament.
Check Out the Full 23-Man Squad for this Weekend’s Clash Below.
1. Eroni Mawi, 2. Sam Matavesi, 3. Manasa Saulo, 4. Albert Tuisue, 5. Leone Nakarawa, 6. Dominiko Waqaniburotu, 7. Semi Kunatani, 8. Viliame Mata, 9. Frank Lomani, 10. Ben Volavola, 11. Patrick Osbourne, 12. Levani Botia, 13. Waisea Nayacalevu, 14. Filipo Nakosi, 15. Alivereti Veitokani.
16. Mesulame Dolokoto, 17. Peni Ravai, 18. Lee-Roy Atalifo, 19. Apisalome Ratuniyarawa, 20. Peceli Yato, 21. Henry Seniloli, 22. Jale Vatubua, 23. Josh Matavesi.
Jones to leave Springboks after RWC campaign
Springbok assistant coach Felix Jones will part ways with the team at the end of the 2023 season due to personal reasons after seeing out his contract following the conclusion of the Rugby World Cup in France.
Jones, who will join England’s coaching team next season, said his young family was the main consideration in his decision following more than four years with the Boks.
SA Rugby Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus said while it was sad for the entire South African rugby fraternity to lose Jones’ expertise, he understood the reasons for his decision, and wished him luck as he continues his coaching career in the UK next season.
Jones joined the Springboks in 2019 as a defence consultant, accompanying the team to Japan where they lifted the Webb Ellis Cup. He then continued with the side on a four-year contract as an assistant coach in 2020.
During this time, Jones was based in UK, where he kept a close eye on the European-based Players of National Interest and dealt directly with them on a regular basis, as well joining the team on full national duty during competitions and training camps.
The former Ireland fullback’s coaching stint with the Springboks so far has seen him assist the team to Rugby World Cup glory, as well as a series victory over the British & Irish Lions.
“It’s a big loss for the Springboks to lose a coach of Felix’ calibre,” said Erasmus.
“While we are saddened by the decision, we know how difficult it was for him to make that call and we fully understand the reasons. He’s been an asset to the Springboks in the last few years and the way he has evolved in his role and willingly took on additional responsibilities to ensure that the team functioned as optimally as possible in his areas of expertise, has been admirable.
“We know Felix will remain fully committed to the Springboks’ cause and give everything as we attempt to defend our Rugby World Cup title in France, and hopefully we can make it a special and memorable send-off for him later this year.”
Jones said his time with the Springboks will always remain one of the highlights of his career.
“Coaching the Springboks is one of the biggest privileges in rugby and I intend to do everything I can to ensure the team is successful until the day my contract comes to its natural end,” said Jones.
“The last four years has been an incredible journey for me and my family, both professionally and personally, I am indebted to so many people at the Springboks and in South Africa for that.
“My commitment to the Springboks until the end of the Rugby World Cup is unquestionable, and Rassie, Jacques (Nienaber – Springbok head coach) and the entire Springbok team know that.
“The next five months are going to be exciting and demanding, and I’m looking forward to preparing for the World Cup with this coaching team.”
Scott Robertson appointed All Blacks Head Coach from 2024
Scott Robertson will become the All Blacks Head Coach from 2024.
The 48-year-old father of three was appointed following a robust interview process and will announce further key appointments to his coaching and management team in coming months before officially taking up his new role following the conclusion of the 2023 Rugby World Cup.
Robertson has been appointed for four years from 2024 through to the end of the 2027 Rugby World Cup and will succeed current All Blacks Head Coach Ian Foster, who will lead the All Blacks through the conclusion of the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France. Robertson’s appointment was confirmed at an NZR Board Meeting on Tuesday morning.
“It’s an honour to be named as the next All Blacks Head Coach,” Robertson said. “It’s a job that comes with a huge amount of responsibility, but I’m excited by the opportunity to make a contribution to the legacy of the black jersey. To represent your country, as a coach or player, is the ultimate honour in sport and it’s humbling to be given that opportunity. I can’t wait.”
Robertson, who played 23 Tests for the All Blacks as a loose forward between 1998 and 2002, has compiled an impressive coaching resume. Following, retirement from the professional game in 2007 Robertson commenced his coaching career with the Sumner Rugby Club in Christchurch, before moving into an Assistant role with Canterbury in 2008 and then taking over as Head Coach in 2013, where he went on to win three Premiership titles between 2013 and 2016,. He has guided the Crusaders to six consecutive Super Rugby titles as Head Coach since 2017. Prior, to that he coached New Zealand U20s to a Junior World Championship crown, and most recently he coached the famous Barbarians FC to a win over the All Blacks XV last year.
“Having significant time to plan for 2024 and beyond is crucial to setting the All Blacks up for success during the next World Cup cycle. I have a job to do with the Crusaders and that will be my main focus through to the completion of DHL Super Rugby, but I will now have the opportunity to work with NZR to get some key appointments in my coaching and management team finalised, so we can hit the ground running next year.“
NZR Board Chair Dame Patsy Reddy said:
“We were very happy with the calibre and quality and quality of the people involved and would like to thank all of those who took part in the process. The decision to appoint the next All Blacks Head Coach ahead of the Rugby World Cup was not taken lightly, but we believe it was the right decision for New Zealand Rugby and the All Blacks and will set the team up for future success.
“We congratulate Scott on his appointment and look forward to working together in 2024, but have also been clear that New Zealand Rugby’s full support this year will be focused on the current All Blacks coaching team as we look toward the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France.”
NZR Chief Executive Mark Robinson said:
“I’d like to congratulate Scott on his appointment. His coaching record speaks for itself in terms of success, but what came through strongly during the interview process was his innovative approach to the game, his passion for his players, and his desire to add to the All Blacks legacy. We firmly believe he is the right person to lead the team in 2024 and beyond.”
BIO – Scott Robertson
As a player Robertson was capped 23 times in Tests for the All Blacks as a loose forward between 1998 and 2002. He made his debut against Australia in Christchurch in 1998 and was a member of the 1999 Rugby World Cup squad, playing in a 101-3 pool win over Italy. He moved into coaching with the Sumner Rugby Club and quickly transitioned into the Canterbury NPC environment where he was part of the team that won five titles between 2008 and 2012. Robertson was then elevated to Head Coach where he guided the team to three NPC Premiership titles between 2013-2016. Even greater success followed in Super Rugby, where he has guided the Crusaders to six consecutive Super Rugby titles as Head Coach since 2017. In 2015, the New Zealand Under 20s won the Junior World Championship title with Robertson as Head Coach, and last year coached the famous Barbarians FC to a win over the All Blacks XV.
England side to face Ireland in Six Nations
Captain Owen Farrell will start at fly half, Manu Tuilagi returns to the side at inside centre with Henry Slade at outside centre. There is a first England start for Henry Arundell on the left wing, Anthony Watson is at right wing, and Freddie Steward is full back.
- Kick off at Aviva Stadium is 5pm
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- Famous Fixtures: England v Ireland
In the forward pack Lewis Ludlam is named vice-captain and is flanker alongside Jack Willis. Alex Dombrandt is at No. 8. In the same front row that has started each game of the championship, vice-captain Ellis Genge and Kyle Sinckler are at prop and Jamie George is at hooker. David Ribbans starts at lock with Maro Itoje.
Dan Cole is in line to make his 100th appearance for England after being named as replacement. Cole made his England debut in the Six Nations in February 2010. He has gone on to play in three Rugby World Cups and has won three Guinness Six Nations titles.
Nick Isiekwe and Joe Marchant return to the bench, along with Jack Walker, Mako Vunipola, Ben Curry, Alex Mitchell and Marcus Smith.
“We travel to Dublin to face an Ireland team on Saturday that has the chance to secure a Grand Slam Championship victory at home for the first time” said Borthwick.
“We know that after the bitter disappointment of the display against an exceptional France team last week, we will have to be much improved to meet the challenge of playing the side presently ranked number one in the world.
“However, I have witnessed an England squad determined to make amends for the defeat at Twickenham, and I am confident that the team announced today will once again want to show the sort of resilience and attitude that brought us victory in Wales.”
Team to face Ireland
15. Freddie Steward
14. Anthony Watson
13. Henry Slade
12. Manu Tuilagi
11. Henry Arundell
10. Owen Farrell (C)
1. Ellis Genge (VC)
2. Jamie George
4. Maro Itoje
6. Lewis Ludlam (VC)
7. Jack Willis
16. Jack Walker
17. Mako Vunipola
18. Dan Cole
19. Nick Isiekwe
20. Ben Curry
21. Alex Mitchell
22. Marcus Smith
23. Joe Marchant
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