World Cup player profiles: Fiji

Date published: September 11 2015

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Ahead of the 2015 Rugby World Cup, we take a look at all of the players set to feature in England. Next up, Fiji.

Forwards: Lee Roy Atalifo, Isei Colati, Campese Ma’afu, Peni Ravai, Manasa Saulo, Sunia Koto, Tuapati Talemaitoga, Viliame Veikoso, Tevita Cavubati, Leone Nakarawa, Api Ratuniyarawa, Nemia Soqeta, Masi Matadigo, Akapusi Qera (capt), Malakai Ravulo, Netani Talei, Dom Waqaniburotu, Peceli Yato.

Backs: Nemia Kenatale, Nikola Matawalu, Henry Seniloli, Lepani Botia, Gabby Lovobalavu, Josh Matavesi, Ben Volavola, Vereniki Goneva, Kini Murimurivalu, Nemani Nadolo, Waisea Nayacalevu, Metuisela Talebula, Asaeli Tikoirotuma.


 LEE ROY ATALIFO

 Prop    1.91m    135kg    10.05.1988

Atalifo made his international debut for Fiji in 2014, appearing as a substitute against the Cook Islands in Suva. Atalifo even scored a Test try in his only appearance for his country ahead of the Rugby World Cup. Atalifo signed for National Rugby Championship side North Harbour Rays in 2014, plying his trade in Australia’s new domestic competition. The 2015 Rugby World Cup will be Atalifo’s first major tournament for Fiji.


LEPANI BOTIA

 Centre    1.80m    97kg    28.04.1988

Botia currently plays club rugby in France for La Rochelle. His career took off when he was selected to represent the Fijian Sevens team at 2012 Hong Kong Sevens. Fiji won the tournament as Botia produced staggering performances, which resulted in his Test bow for Fiji a year later. 


TEVITA CAVUBATI

 Lock     2.00m    120kg    12.08.1987

Cavubati’s senior kicked off when returning to New Zealand in 2012 and turning out for Tasman Makos in the ITM Cup, playing a key role for the side and helping them to reach the Premiership Final in 2014. His success with Tasman led to a move to the Ospreys where he became a key figure in their pack throughout the PRO12 season. With Fiji, Cavubati made his international debut back in 2011, playing in two July matches against Tonga and Japan. Cavubati however wasn’t selected for the 2011 Rugby World Cup and didn’t in fact return to Test rugby until November 2014 against Wales and the USA. He scored his first international try in the 2015 Pacific Nations Cup against Japan when he started twice, before being named in Fiji’s World Cup squad.


ISEI COLATI

 Prop    1.75m    115kg    23.12.1983

Colati plays his club rugby in France in the Féderale 1 league with L’USON – L’Union Sportive Olympique Nivernaise – and has made nearly 90 appearances for the club since hs joined them back in 2010/2011. With Fiji, Colati’s debut came in June 2014 against Italy in Suva. Colati has made six more appearances as a replacement, featuring against France, Wales and the NZ Maori, but hasn’t made a start for Fiji before the 2015 Rugby World Cup.  


VERENIKI GONEVA

 Utility-back    1.78m    97kg    05.04.1981

Goneva broke onto the scene in 2007 while representing the Fijian Sevens side during the IRB Sevens World Series. Staggering performances saw him make his Test debut for Fiji's XV-man team in 2007, which resulted in him playing in his first Rugby World Cup four-years later. After stints at French clubs, US Colomiers and Tarbes, he joined his current team Leicester Tigers for whom he has earned over 60 caps. The 31-year-old is capable of playing centre, wing and full-back and is devastating on attack and fierce on defense.


NEMIA KENATALE

 Scrum-half    1.78m    80kg    21.01.1986

Kenatale is a nuggety scrum-half who plies his trade with Romanian side Farul Constanta. He made his Test debut in 2008 and previously played for Southland in New Zealand's National Provincial Championship during 2012 and 2013.


SUNIA KOTO

 Hooker    1.74m    113kg    15.04.1980

One of Fiji’s most experienced forwards, Koto began his club career with the Suva Highlanders, located in his hometown. Koto moved to Fiji Warriors before joining his first club overseas when he signed for London Welsh in 2007. Koto spent two seasons with the Exiles before signing for French club Narbonne in 2009. Koto has gone on to make over 135 appearances for the Pro D2 club. With Fiji, Koto’s debut came as a replacement against the NZ Maori back in June 2005. His first start came at the end of that month against Tonga. Koto went on to feature at the 2007 Rugby World Cup. Koto’s first international try came in June 2009 against Tonga and he went on to play at the 2011 Rugby World Cup, playing in all of his country’s matches. He has continued to be a key figure for the side with his experience in the build-up to the 2015 Rugby World Cup.


GABIRIELE LOVOBALAVU

 Centre/Wing    1.82m    95kg    20.06.1985

Lovobalavu started out playing for Fijian team the Northern Sharks in 2007. He made his Test debut that same year and went on to represent Fiji at the 2007 and 2011 Rugby World Cups. Lovobalavu headed abroad in 2008 joining French club Toulon on a four-year stint, making 79 appearances and scoring 19 tries. The Fijian stalwart joined his current club Bayonne in 2012.


SAKIUSA MASI MATADIGO

 Utility-forward     1.90m    108kg    08.08.1982

Another outstanding player off the back row conveyer belt for Fiji, Matadigo, while not boasting a wealth of caps, has developed plenty of experience in the European club game over the years. Matadigo, 33, has played for Saracens, Montpellier and Racing in the past but is now at Lyon and seems to be flourishing in the later stages of his career. He started in Fiji's Pacific Nations Cup final victory.


JOSH MATAVESI

 Utility-back    1.85m    112kg    05.10.1990

Matavesi currently plays for Welsh side Ospreys. He was first noticed in 2008 while representing English club Mounts Bay, which resulted in his Test debut for Fiji a year later at the tender age of 19. The 24-year-old's experience playing in the Northern hemisphere for Exeter Chiefs, Ospreys, Racing 92 and Worcester Warriors should be vital to Fiji's success at the 2015 Rugby World Cup.


NIKOLA MATAWALU

 Scrum-half     1.73m    81kg    08.03.1989

A real livewire scrum-half who can also play on the wing and did so superbly for Glasgow in 2014/15. He is seen more as a nine for Fiji though where his leadership qualities come to the fore. The 26-year-old knows his way to the try-line and scored plenty for Glasgow in the PRO12 and if he translates that threat to the World Cup, Matawalu will tie in plenty of defenders and thus free up space for his back-line.


 CAMPESE MAAFU

 Prop    1.83m    117kg    19.12.1984

Born in Sydney, Ma’afu is named appropriately after the great Australian winger David Campese. His older brother Salesi Ma’afu has been capped by Australia. He has previously faced his brother in an international match, when Australia played against Fiji in 2010. Domestically, Ma’afu began his club career with West Harbour before moving to Wales where he joined PRO12 outfit Cardiff Blues. After one season Ma’afu moving to Nottingham in 2013 and made 22 appearances across 2015. He then signed for Pro D2 side Provence Rugby in France. Ma’afu’s clash against his brother was actually his debut for Fiji and he scored his first try two weeks later in the win over Tonga. Ma’afu featured regularly for Fiji at the 2011 Rugby World Cup and has been a regular ever since, including in the 2015 Pacific Nations Cup.


KINI MURIMURIVALU

 Fullback/Wing    1.78m    94kg    15.05.1989

Murimurivalu's rugby career took off in 2011 when he made his Test debut for Fiji and went on to represent them at the Rugby World Cup that same year. Murimurivalu, capable of playing wing or full-back joined French club Clermont in 2009 on a three-year stint, but a lack of game time saw him join his current club La Rochelle for their 2012 season.


NEMANI NADOLO

 Centre/Wing    1.96m    126kg    31.01.1988

Nemani Nadolo, the brother of Chris Kuridrani and the cousin of former Wallabies wing Lote Tuqiri, currently plays for the Crusaders in Super Rugby and the NEC Green Rockets in the Japanese Top League. The Fijian-born Nadolo moved to Australia at a young age, joining his father who played rugby for Queensland. The 27 year-old represented Australian teams, Perth Spirit and Randwick, which resulted in his inclusion in the U20 Australian team that took part in the IRB Junior World Championship. The speedster plied his trade abroad at French club Bourgoin and England's Exeter, before joining the Green Rockets in 2011. The monster wing made his Test debut for Fiji against Australia in 2010. His sheer strength, pace and ability to create try scoring opportunities will be invaluable for Fiji at the 2015 Rugby World Cup.


LEONE NAKARAWA

 Lock    1.98m    109kg    02.04.1988

One of Fiji’s best forwards going into the 2015 Rugby World Cup with his offloading game and powerful runs. He was first capped by Fiji as a replacement back in 2009 against Tonga and Ireland, before making his first start against Romania. Nakarawa scored his first try for his country against Tonga in August 2011 before being selected for the Rugby World Cup, when he also scored in Fiji’s first match against Namibia. Nakarawa started in all four of Fiji’s World Cup matches. He went on to feature regularly in 2012 and 2014 for the side and scored four tries in two matches during the 2015 Pacific Nations Cup, including in the final when Fiji defeated Samoa to lift the title. Domestically, Nakarawa joined Glasgow Warriors in 2013 and has been a success for the side, helping to win the PRO12 title at the end of the 2014/2015 season.


WAISEA NAYACALEVU

 Wing    1.95m    104kg    26.06.1990

Waisea Nayacalevu the brother of Avenisi Vasuinubu both played for Australian club Melbourne. Staggering performances at the club saw both brothers selected to join the Fijian 7's team for the 2011–12 IRB Sevens World Series. The 25-year-old speedster made his Test debut in 2012 during the Pacific Nations Cup, which resulted in a move to French club Stade Francais for whom he has earned over 50 caps. 


AKAPUSI QERA

 Flanker    1.94m    112kg    24.04.1984

Fiji's captain has a wealth of experience in the game and it is remarkable he is still just 31-years old. A seven-year stint at Gloucester put Qera on the rugby map for many while he continued to impress for his country. The back-row forward played at the 2007 and 2011 Rugby World Cups and has been a fine leader for Fiji over the years, with his 50th cap fast approaching and set to come during the pool stages.


API RATUNIYARAWA

 Lock    1.96m    98kg    23.01.1983

Ratuniyarawa made his debut for the Pacific Islanders against England at Twickenham in 2012. He currently plays for Agen in the Top 14 competition. He is a hard-working lock who joined Agen in 2013, after previously plying his trade with North Harbour in New Zealand's National Provincial Championship.


PENI RAVAI

 Prop/Hooker    1.85m    105kg    16.06.1990

Ravai got his first break in senior rugby playing in the National Rugby Championship in Australia in 2014. Initially a back, Ravai featured for the Fiji Sevens side, playing at the 2013 USA Sevens tournament, before making the switch to the XV-man game. His debut came in the 2013 November Tests, coming on as a replacement hooker against Romania. The following year Ravai started at prop for Fiji against the USA before featuring regularly in 2015, scoring a first international try against Tonga and then going on to play in the 2015 Pacific Nations Cup before being selected for the Rugby World Cup squad.


MALAKAI RAVULO

 Loose-forward    1.90m    107kg    22.09.1983

Ravulo was as a centre during his younger days but has played all his senior rugby as a loose forward. He made his Test debut on Fiji's end-of-year tour to Europe in 2010. Ravulo represented North Harbour in New Zealand's National Provincial Championship between 2008 and 2013 but moved to Romanian side Farul Constanta in 2014.


MANASA SAULO

 Prop    1.88m    117kg    06.04.1989

Saulo’s rugby career took off in the 2014/2015 season, when he went from working on a sugar cane farm back in Fiji to playing for his country. Saulo landed a contract with Timisiora Saracens, who are partnered with English Premiership side Saracens. His international debut for Fiji came a couple of years earlier as a replacement against England at Twickenham. Saulo had to wait 10 matches before his first start for his country, coming in June 2014 against Italy in Suva. Since then he has started every game has played for Fiji, including in all three matches during the Pacific Nations Cup and in the process making himself a key figure in the Fijian pack.


HENRY SENILOLI

 Scrum-half    1.75m    75kg    15.06.1989

Seniloli currently plays for Italian team Treviso. He made his Test bow in 2013 against Romania, and is one of the more inexperienced players in the team.


NEMIA SOQETA

 Flank/Lock    1.96m    118kg    04.03.1985

Soqeta is equally adept at playing on the flank or at number eight. He started his senior career at Taranaki in New Zealand's National Provincial Championship in 2010 before heading to Japan in 2011 where he played for Toyota Shokki Shuttle. He returned to Taranaki in 2012 but moved to Oyonnax in the Top 14 in 2014. He made his Test debut against France that same year and moved to Biarritz in France's Pro D2 competition in 2015.


METUISELA TALEBULA

 Utility-back    1.86m    98kg    20.05.1991

Talebula currently plays club rugby in France for the Bordeaux-Bègles. He broke onto the scene while representing Fiji in the 2011 IRB Junior World Championship producing staggering performances, which resulted in his inclusion in the Fijian Sevens team later that year. The 24-year-old helped the team lift the 2011 Gold Coast Sevens cup, 2012 Hong Kong Sevens Cup and 2012 London Sevens Cup. Talebula, capable of playing at the wing, fly-half, full-back and centre made his Test bow for Fiji during the 2012 Pacific Nations Cup. Talebula's versatility will be invaluable to Fiji's success at the 2015 Rugby World Cup.


NETANI TALEI

 Back-row    1.93m    112kg    19.03.1983

The number eight has plenty of experience on the international scene and also boasts spells at Worcester, Edinburgh, the Dragons and now Harlequins in the club game. A solid ball carrier who is explosive both in possession and in defence, Talei's a steady back-row option.


TUAPATI TALEMAITOGA

 Hooker    1.80m    107kg    16.08.1985

Tuapati plays his club rugby in New Zealand in the ITM Cup for Southland where he has been based since 2012. In 2015 he joined Top 14 club Stade Français on a three-month contract as an injury replacement. Tuapati first appeared for Fiji back in 2010 when he made his debut as a starter against Australia in Canberra. Tuapati scored his first international try against Italy in November later that year. He went on to play for Fiji at the Rugby World Cup in 2011 and has consistently featured for the team ever since, scoring another Test try against Samoa in 2012. Taupati also featured in the Pacific Nations Cup in 2015 as Fiji prepared for the Rugby World Cup in England.


ASAELI TIKOIROTUMA

 Centre/Wing    1.87m    91kg    24.06.1986

Tikoirotuma currently plays for London Irish in the Aviva Premiership. The 29-year-old broke onto the scene at a late stage in his career when he joined the Chiefs for their 2012 Super Rugby season, which resulted in him winning his first major title when they won the competition that same year. A two-year stint at the Chiefs saw him earn 65-caps and rack-up a tally of 155 points. Tikoirotuma made his Test bow for Fiji in 2013. The elusive runner has the ability to break the line of defence with his elusive step and electrifying acceleration.


 VILIAME VEIKOSO

 Hooker    1.75m    90kg    04.04.1982

Veikoso played second division rugby with North Otago in New Zealand before making his international debut in 2009 for Fiji. Veikoso started against Scotland at Murrayfield in November and went on to make two appearances at the 2011 Rugby World Cup, starting against Namibia. Veikoso has been a regular player in Fiji’s squad since then, coming off the bench in the Pacific Nations Cup against Samoa. In the 2014/2015 season he joined English Championship team Doncaster on a one-year deal.


BEN VOLAVOLA

 Fly-Half/Fullback    1.91m    96kg    13.01.1991

Volavola is an Australian-born Fijian international who currently plays for the Greater Sydney Rams in National Rugby Championship. He was first noticed while representing Australia at the 2011 IRB Junior World Championship. His performances for Australian club, the Southern Districts earned him a spot in the Waratahs 2013 Super Rugby squad for whom he earned eight-caps. He left the Waratahs at the end of their 2015 season because of a lack of game-time, however he will be joining the Crusaders in 2016 after signing a two-year a deal. The 24-year-old made his Test debut for Fiji in 2015.


DOM WAQANIBUROTU

 Flanker    2.01m    110kg    20.04.1986

Waqaniburotu made his Test debut against Australia in 2010 and is a versatile forward who can play at lock and on the flank. He currently plays for Brive in the Top 14. He joined the French side in 2012 after previously playing for Waikato in New Zealand's National Provincial Championship. Waqaniburotu captained Fiji during the 2010 Pacific Nations Cup.


PECELI YATO

 Flanker    1.96m     105kg    17.01.1993

An outstanding prospect for Fiji as his late-season form for Clermont last term really put him on the map. Yato is a tall, strong and fast back-row forward who possesses delicate skills with ball in hand. He will prove a real impact man for Fiji off the bench during this Rugby World Cup and at 22 years of age has plenty of time on his side to develop into one of the game's best. Clermont are lucky to have him.

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