The Flying Fijians boast brilliant individual players from one to 23 in any given match-day squad, so narrowing down ‘six to watch’ is never an easy task.
But we’re confident that the players we’ve picked out, a mixture of local and overseas stars, forwards and backs, some with sevens experience and some not, will light up the Autumn Nations Cup.
France will be all too aware of the threat posed by Lepani Botia and Josua Tuisova, thanks to their stunning exploits in the Top 14, when they take on Fiji in the opening round of fixtures on 15 November.
And half of the Scotland team, Fiji’s opponents a fortnight later, will be more than familiar with Glasgow second-row Leone Nakarawa.
Matawalu is also a surname well-known to Glasgow supporters and players, through scrum-half/wing Nikola Matawalu. But this time it’ll be his younger brother, Peni, hoping to keep them on their toes.
England-based Semi Radradra and Albert Tuisue make up the sensational sextet ready to turn on the Fijian flair after a disappointing Rugby World Cup 2019.
Nakarawa will be nothing if not fresh having played no rugby since February. The rangy second-row picked up a knee injury which kept him sidelined for six weeks. Due to lockdown and an extended period in Fiji following the birth of his child and a family bereavement, he hasn’t appeared for Glasgow Warriors since. Rugby has missed his outrageous ball-handling skills and the Autumn Nations Cup will be only the better for his involvement.
Tuisue put the disappointment of missing out on Rugby World Cup 2019 behind him to star for struggling London Irish in the English Premiership. Only Jono Ross and England new cap Tom Dunn made more tackles than his 227 in the competition, while the powerful loose forward was fifth in terms of ball carries. An exceptionally hard worker who deserves the chance to add to his seven caps.
One of nine locally-based players in the Flying Fijians squad, Peni Matawalu gets the chance to follow in his brother Nikola’s footsteps with the prospect of a first cap around the corner. Matawalu, 23, is more of a classic scrum-half than his older sibling but perhaps without the same levels of searing pace. Nevertheless, his leggy running style still keeps defences honest. He is also not afraid to put a big tackle in and has enjoyed success with Fiji Drua in Australia's National Rugby Championship.
There’s been no shortage of superlatives to describe Radradra’s impact for both club and country in recent times. The formidable centre backed up a terrific Rugby World Cup 2019 campaign with some stunning displays for Bristol Bears at the tail-end of the 2019/20 English Premiership season, eating up the metres and putting tries on a plate for his team-mates with his outrageous offloading ability. A real game-changer who comes up with a moment of magic whenever his side needs it most.
Stop Radradra or the equally impressive Waisea Nayacalevu, and you’ve still got Levani Botia to deal with. Botia has put a relatively quiet Rugby World Cup behind him and blitzed people for fun in the Top 14. So talented, La Rochelle have used him at flanker as well as at inside centre. Not the biggest at 1.8m tall and 102kg in weight, but Botia is all in when making a tackle. Pure aggression whatever the number on his back.
Rio 2016 Olympic gold medal winner Tuisova will be looking to take his strong start to the 2020/21 Top 14 season with Lyon into the Autumn Nations Cup. The winger is up on top of the try-scoring charts with six tries in as many games and has left defenders knock-kneed and trailing in his wake with his slight of foot. Has never been happier or scarier with the ball in hand in 15s than at present, and that’s saying something as Tuisova played for Toulon in their all-conquering era.