Fiji Under 20 Rayne Simpson has selected a squad of 33 players who will step up their preparations for the inaugural IRB Junior World Championship in Wales from 6-22 June.
Nearly two thirds of the squad are players who helped Fiji finish 11th in their first season in Division A at the IRB Under 19 World Championship in Northern Ireland in 2007, including Henry Speight and cousins Vuga and Seremaia Tagicakibau.
Eight of the squad are based overseas, but the players will be put through a programme by Simpson with three training camps in April and a warm-up game against Tonga, who finished fifth in Division B in 2007, in May.
“We had a group of talented players and it was tough to cut down the squad to 33,” admitted Simpson. “But I believe these players have really proven themselves to date and will be ready to give their all for their country in Wales.
“This is the squad we will be working with. Out of these 33 we will select 26 for the tournament.”
Key trial match for Canadians
Fiji have been drawn in Pool C with Australia, England and Canada with the matches to be played at Rodney Parade in Newport. Their final pool opponent Canada have also been stepping up their preparations with a trial game to take place in Shawnigan Lake, British Columbia, on 22 March.
Forty-four players will be hoping to stake their claim for selection with the starting line ups comprising the top 30 who are expected to play at least the first half before the coaches introduce other players they want to see in action.
Canada’s Under 20s have already recorded two victories over the USA this year, beating their Under 19s 56-0 and then edging the Under 20 team 19-14 to retain the Freedom Cup in Florida last month.
“As far as the total preparation goes it’s been fantastic the amount of resources and the preparation time has been far greater than we have had in the past with the age grade programmes,” admitted coach Tim Murdy. “It has certainly been a positive step for sure.”
Fiji Under 20 squad:
Forwards: *Saula Qalomai, Seru Tabaiwalu Cakobau, Penijamini Makutu, *Serupepeli Qaranivalu, *Jeke Lalai, Manasa Saulo, Alexander Mar, *Tevita Tuiloa, Unaloto Ofa, *Temo Vakaloloma Cama, *Waqabaca Kotobalavu, Joseva Levula, *Jese Cirikisuva, *Uraia Vecenadavui, *Samu Vunisa, *Sireli Kaloucava (U19).
Backs: *Peni Rokodiva, *Vuga Tagicakibau, Alexander Rokobaro, Anare Vakawaletabua, *Kasami Natubavivi, John Stewart, Eroni Tara, *Isikeli Vuruna, Kolinio Vunaki, Venaia Navutovuto, *Seremaia Tagicakibau, *Henry Speight, *William Umu, Pate Buto, *Kini Murimurivalu, *William Saukuru, Sakiusa Malai.
* = Played in IRB Under 19 Championship 2007 for Fiji.