With just over a month to go until Rugby World Cup 2019 kicks off, Fiji head coach John McKee named a 32-man squad on Friday, leaving him with one more difficult decision to make on who misses out on the tournament with only 31 players able to make the trip to Japan.
Captain Dominiko Waqaniburotu is one of five players in this extended squad who are in line for their third tournament, having featured in five RWC matches across New Zealand 2011 and England 2015.
Prop Campese Ma’afu, second-row Leone Nakarawa, winger Vereniki Goneva – who last week became Fiji's all-time leading try-scorer in test rugby (pictured) – and full-back Kini Murimurivalu also travelled with the Flying Fijians to New Zealand and England.
Of the players named by McKee on Friday, 15 could make their Rugby World Cup debuts in Japan. Those players include rugby league convert Semi Radradra and Lyon winger Josua Tuisova.
“I wish the players selected well and remind them of the responsibility they must take on in representing Fiji in a RWC,” McKee said in an announcement live on Fiji TV.
“With 35 days until our opening match against the Wallabies now is the time to step our preparation up in the final phase to ensure we put ourselves in the best position to achieve our performance goals at RWC.”
Fiji were forced to qualify for RWC 2019 having finished fourth in a tough pool at England 2015 that included Australia, hosts England, Uruguay and Wales.
"They must not let this opportunity to do something special for Fiji slip by."
The Flying Fijians made sure of their place in Japan by winning the combined 2016 and 2017 World Rugby Pacific Nations Cup title.
McKee’s side won a fourth successive Pacific Nations Cup title and fifth overall in 2018, but lost their crown to Japan earlier this month.
Fiji will again face Australia, Uruguay and Wales at Rugby World Cup 2019 having been drawn in Pool D with Georgia completing the quintet.
Their campaign gets underway with a match against Australia in Sapporo on 21 September before the Flying Fijians travel to Kamaishi four days later to play Uruguay.
McKee’s side will then face Georgia at the Hanazono Rugby Stadium on 3 October and will end pool play with a match against Wales at Oita Stadium on 9 October. The Flying Fijians will hope they are still in contention for a first quarter-final appearance in 12 years by then.
“With selection made, players can focus completely on their preparation for RWC and being the best player they can be for the team and for Fiji,” McKee said.
“This is an exciting time for these men who have been selected for the Flying Fijians heading to RWC in Japan. They must not let this opportunity to do something special for Fiji slip by.
“They must not merely wish for something special to happen. They must put in the hard work and commitment to make it happen.”
Fiji Rugby World Cup 2019 squad*
Forwards: Mesulame Dolokoto, Samuel Matavesi, Ratu Vere Vugakoto, Campese Ma’afu, Eroni Mawi, Peni Ravai, Lee-Roy Atalifo, Manasa Saulo, Kalivati Tawake, Tevita Cavubati, Leone Nakarawa, Api Ratuniyarawa, Tevita Ratuva, Semi Kunatani, Viliame Mata, Mosese Voka, Dominiko Waqaniburotu, Peceli Yato.
Backs: Frank Lomani, Nikola Matawalu, Henry Seniloli, Levani Botia, Jale Vatubua, Ben Volavola, Vereniki Goneva, Filipo Nakosi, Waisea Nayacalevu, Semi Radradra, Josua Tuisova, Joshua Matavesi, Alivereti Veitokani, Kini Murimurivalu.
* One player to be cut before tournament