Radradra to make Fiji debut in Pacific Nations Cup
SUVA, Fiji (AP) — Former rugby league star Semi Radradra will make his rugby union test debut for Fiji against Georgia in the Pacific Nations Cup at Suva on Saturday.
Radradra, who played for Parramatta in Australia’s National Rugby League and now plays for Toulon in France, will start at outside center in a backline which also includes France-based Nemani Nadolo on the wing, Ben Volavola at flyhalf, and Jale Vatubua at inside center.
Radradra has been in outstanding form lately for Toulon in France’s Top 14, for the Barbarians team which beat England at Twickenham, and for the Fiji sevens side in the world series.
Kini Murimurivalu and Vereniki Goneva, who were try-scorers in Fiji’s 24-22 win over Samoa in the first round of the PNC last weekend, return at fullback and on the right wing.
Prop Ratu Vere Vugakoto and prop Manasa Saulo join veteran Campese Ma’afu in a beefed-up front row. Coach John McKee said Fiji would need to be strong in the forwards to counter the powerful Georgia pack.
Captain Akapusi Qera will start at flanker and Viliama Mata at No. 8 in a rearranged back row.
Georgia is starting Clermont flanker Vito Kolelishvili after he missed the last two games injured, and Russia-based midfielder Lasha Malaguradze in his first start since November 2016. Also, Agen wing Tamaz Mchedlidze returns on the right after missing the Tonga win.
Georgia and Fiji have a win each against the other, and will meet again in the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Osaka.
Meanwhile, Samoa coach Fuimaono Tafua made nine changes to his starting lineup for Saturday’s test against Tonga.
Props Jordan Lay and Viliamu Afatia join hooker Seilala Lam in an all-new front row.
T.J. Ioane will start on the openside flank and Jack Lam will move from that position to No. 8. Joe Tekori joins captain Chris Vui in the second row.
Among the backs, Dwayne Polata’vao will start at scrumhalf, Alofa Alofa at outside centre, and Paul Perez on the right wing. Former captain Ofisa Treviranus has been named on the bench.
Assistant coach Chris Latham said Tonga would be hard to beat after losing to Georgia 16-15 last weekend.
“They will have a few tricks up their sleeves but we got to make sure that we look after ourselves, take care of the ball, and play the game on our terms,” Latham said.
Tonga made five changes, including putting Castres-based loose forwards Sitivani Mafi in the starting side and Maama Vaipulu in the reserves. Mafi replaced flanker Dan Faleafa, who was injured against Georgia.
Also, Glasgow tighthead prop Siua Halanukonuka replaced Dave Lolohea.
In the backs, David Halaifonua was switched from wing to fullback in place of Sione Fifita, New Zealand-based Viliami Lolohea filled in on the right wing, and Bath wing Cooper Vuna replaced Penikolo Latu on the left.
Fiji: Keni Murimurivalu, Vereniki Goneava, Semi Radradra, Jale Vatubua, Nemani Nadolo, Ben Volavola, Henry Seniloli; Viliame Mata, Akapusi Qera (captain), Dominiko Waqaniburotu, Leone Nakarawa, Apisalome Ratuniyarawa, Manasa Saulo, Ratu Vere Vugakot, Campese Ma’afu. Reserves: Ratunaisa Navuma, Eroni Maw, Kalivati Tawake, Sikeli Nabou, Nemani Nagusa, Frank Lomani, Alivereti Veitokani, Timoci Nagusa.
Georgia: Soso Matiashvili, Tamaz Mchedlidze, Davit Katcharava, Lasha Malaguradze, Anzor Sitchinava, Sandro Todua, Lasha Khmaladze, Vasil Lobzhanidze; Otar Giorgadze, Vito Kolelishvili, Giorgi Tsutskiridze, Kote Mikautadze, Giorgi Nemsadze (captain), Levan Chilachava, Shalva Mamukashvili, Kakha Asieshvili. Reserves: Shalva Sutiashvili, Nodar Tcheishvili, Giorgi Melikidze, Zurab Zhvania, Giorgi Tchqoidze, Giorgi Begadze, Giorgi Kveseladze, Merab Kvirikashvili.
Samoa: Ah See Tuala, Paul Perez, Alofa Alofa, Alapati Leiua, Sinoti Sinoti, Tusi Pisi, Dwayne Polataivao; Jack Lam, T.J. Ioane, Piula Faasalele, Chris Vui (captain), Joe Tekori, Viliamu Afatia, Seilala Lam, Jordan Lay. Reserves: Elia Elia, James Lay, Paul Alo-Emile, Brandon Nansen, Ofisa Treviranus, Melani Matavao, Rodney Iona, Ed Fidow.
Tonga: David Halaifonua, Viliami Lolohea, Nafi Tu’itavake, Siale Piutau (captain), Cooper Vuna, Kurt Morath, Sonatane Takulua; Nasi Manu, Fotu Lokotui, Sitiveni Mafi, Joe Tu’ineau, Leva Fifita, Siua Halanukonuka, Paulo Ngauamo, Siegfried Fisi’ihoi. Reserves: Sefo Sakalia, David Feao, Ben Tameifuna, Valentino Mapapalangi, Maama Vaipulu, Suke Tuumotooa, Latiume Fosita.