BORDEAUX: Fiji named Teti Tela to start at fly-half in the absence of the injured Caleb Muntz for their crunch Rugby World Cup Pool C match against Wales on Sunday in Bordeaux.
Tela was the only remaining specialist fly-half in the squad after the loss of Muntz to a knee injury in training, a hard blow for Fiji given his strong performances in recent games.
Tela, 32, made his debut for Fiji against the Barbarians in 2019 and will offer experience, but will have to work hard to match Muntz who had offered his side control as well as their traditional flair in their recent hot streak of results.
Fiji have also called up Castres and Fiji Sevens back Vilimoni Botitu to replace Muntz in the squad, coach Simon Raiwalui said, and he is expected to join up with the group on Friday or Saturday.
“I think we’ve got a good team, we’ve had very good preparation and we have strength in depth which is something we’ve not traditionally had,” he said.
That strength in depth includes some bench options that many other squads in the competition would scramble to start, such as the devastating winger Josua Tuisova and powerhouse utility forward Levani Botia.
The centre pairing of Semi Radradra and captain Waisea Nayacalevu will pose a serious test to the Welsh midfield, both offering the ability to punch holes with direct running or find space and offload.
The experienced Frank Lomani starts at scrum-half as expected, while winger Selestino Ravutaumada will hope to reprise the electric running that took England apart in Fiji’s maiden victory over them last month.
That win showed the team’s improvement in tactical decision-making on top of their usual running-and-passing game, Raiwalui said, as he has urged the team to “play like a Fijian” in training this week.
“Traditionally we’ve had offloading, one-touch flamboyant play but playing Fijian also means aggressive ballcarriers, cleanouts, and being brutal in contact,” he said.
1-Eroni Mawi, 2-Sam Matavesi, 3-Luke Tagi, 4-Isoa Nasilasila, 5-Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta, 6-Albert Tuisue, 7-Lekima Tagitagivalu, 8-Viliame Mata, 9-Frank Lomani, 10-Teti Tela, 11-Vinaya Habosi, 12-Semi Radradra, 13-Waisea Nayacalevu (C), 14-Selestino Ravutaumada, 15-Ilaisa Droasese
Replacements: 16-Tevita Ikanivere, 17-Peni Ravai, 18-Mesaki Doge, 19-Temo Mayanavanua, 20-Levani Botia, 21-Simione Kuruvoli, 22-Josua Tuisova, 23-Sireli Maqala