The Fijian Latui will start as favourites at home in their Global Rapid Rugby opener against the China Lions at ANZ Stadium in Suva.
Whilst there are several new faces in their ranks in 2020, the Fijians bring some pedigree into the new tournament having been part of World Series Rugby in 2018 and the Pacific Showcase series in 2019.
The Lions, on the other hand, are newcomers to Rapid Rugby and being an unknown quantity could count in their favour against their formidable hosts. Despite their ‘freshmen’ tag, the Lions draw many of their players from the Bay of Plenty squad which was crowned champions in New Zealand’s Mitre 10 Cup in 2019.
Fijian Latui head coach Senirusi Seruvakula has been impressed with his team’s progress over the past three weeks but is under no illusions about the challenge that the Lions present.
“It’s going to be a tough game, especially as we will play against players who have played in the Mitre 10 competition. But that is good for us”.
Seruvakula added the match would be a baptism of fire for some of the newer players but that the experienced players should help calm any nerves.
“There has been intense learning over the past few weeks as players have worked to understand the Rapid Rugby laws. The players are adapting to the changes and can’t wait for the game,” he said.
Lions coach Mike Rogers expects the Latui to be tough but is quietly confident after last weekend’s impressive 42-14 victory in a warm-up match against Manuma Samoa.
“The team took a lot from the Samoa match, but we see the Fijian Latui as the most difficult team to face on the road and we are preparing accordingly. We expect Latui will play a typical expansive Fijian style of rugby. They will have big fast-moving players running at us all day.
“The guys have worked hard in the lead-up to Saturday’s game. We have a positive vibe within the team and the boys will look to impose our game onto Fiji,” Rogers said.
Fijian Latui: 1 Joeli Veitayaki, 2 Ratunaisa Navuma, 3 Penijamini Makutu, 4 Sorovakatini Tuifagalele, 5 Sailasa Kerekere, 6 Filimoni Seu, 7 Elia Canakaivata, 8 Eremasi Radrodro, 9 Jone Manu, 10 Teti Tela
11 John Stewart, 12 Serupepeli Vularika (c), 13 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 14 Lepani Raiyala, 15 Meli Nakarawa. Bench: 16 Manoa Mocelutu, 17 Timoci Sauvoli, 18 Mateo Qolisese 19 Peni Naruma,
20 Kelepi Naimasi, 21 Leone Nawai, 22 Apisalome Vota, 23 Enele Malele.
China Lions: 1 Solomona Sakalia, 2 Greg Pleasants-Tate, 3 Nico Aandeweil, 4 Hoani Matenga, 5 Stan Van Den Hoven, 6 Ray Tatafu, 7 Joe Johnston, 8 Hugh Blake (c), 9 Te Aihe Toma, 10 Dwayne Sweeney, 11 Fasi Fuatai, 12 James Little, 13 Matt Garland, 14 Tyler Campbell, 15 Pryor Collier. Bench: 16 Nic Souchon, 17 Haereiti Hetet, 18 Tevita Sole, 19 Iosefa Maloney, 20 Kohan Herbert, 21 Luke Campbell, 22 Dan Hollinshead, 23 Liam Coombes-Fabling.