25 Oct 2016

Sport: Flying Fijian coach welcomes back seasoned pros

12:24 pm on 25 October 2016

Fiji rugby coach John McKee is grateful to have some experienced heads back on board for next month's European tour.

A number of front-line players missed the Flying Fijians Pacific Nations Cup success in June, because of injury and a late-finishing French season.

Akapusi Qera reassumes the captaincy and is one of seven players who last featured at the 2015 World Cup, alongside Nemani Nadolo, Tuapati Talemaitoga, Manasa Saulo, Dominiko Waqaniburotu, Nikola Matawalu and Asaeli Tikoirotuma.

Akapusi Qera and Nemani Nadolo are back in the Flying Fijian squad.

Akapusi Qera and Nemani Nadolo are back in the Flying Fijian squad. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

John McKee said it's good to have them back.

"Pretty much we've got as strong a side as we can select," he said.

"There's been some injuries - notably to Josua Tuisova, who was in the original selection. He's since injured out so Benito Masilevu comes in to take his place but

for me I've very very happy with the squad we've selected."

John McKee said the Flying Fijians are a bit light on numbers in the tight five but are starting to build a strong base of top-flight players.

"We're really starting to build some depth across positions and having those teams (the Fiji Warriors and Fijian team that will compete in the Australian NRC) operating with our domestic players gives an opportunity for those players who are in contention for the Flying Fijians to really prepare and play in the high performance environment," he said.

"Also, for some of the younger players here it gives them a good incentive to stay in Fiji a little bit longer and really get those vital years in their development. It will give them better opportunities overseas and they will be better players for Fiji."

John McKee said the first group of Fiji and New Zealand based players depart for France on Friday, where they will meet up with the Northern Hemisphere based squad members.

"Really looking forward to getting together next week. We've got a short camp in Toulouse for three days," he said.

"We want to change our gameplan up a little bit and have some things up our sleeve, particularly when we come up against England and Japan, so an important few days there just to start to get our combinations working again and to tweak our gameplan."

Fiji open their tour against the Barbarians in Belfast in just over two weeks before test matches against England and Japan.

Fiji rugby coach John McKee.

Fiji rugby coach John McKee. Photo: Facebook / Fiji Rugby