8 Jun 2018

Sport: Fiji, Samoa name new caps for Pacific Nations Cup opener

6:44 am on 8 June 2018

Seven players are poised to make their test debut in Saturday's Pacific Nations Cup rugby clash between Fiji and Samoa in Suva.

Brive midfielder Sevanaia Galala is the only new cap in the Flying Fijians starting fifteen, with European Player of the Year Leone Nakawara headlining a strong forward pack and Aviva Premiership Player of the Year Vereniki Goneva spearheading the backs.

Brive centre Sevanaia Galala has earned a call-up to the Flying Fijians squad.

Sevanaia Galala will make his test debut against Samoa. Photo: AFP

Prop Eroni Mawi, hooker and former Fiji under 20s captain Ratu Veremalua Vugakoto and first five Alivereti Veitokani are also poised to win their first caps off the bench.

Fiji coach John McKee said the defending champions are keen to play an open, expansive game.

"You look across the park we've got players not only in the outside backs but also in the forwards, with players like Nakarawa and Viliame Mata and players like this, who are very good open-field runners so we will be looking to open the game up," he said.

"But we know against Samoa, Georgia and Tonga we won't be able to do that unless we perform well in the tight phases and around the ruck areas."

Fiji training at ANZ Stadium ahead of the Pacific Nations Cup.

Fiji training at ANZ Stadium ahead of the Pacific Nations Cup. Photo: Fiji Rugby

Harlequins back-rower Mat Luamanu will make his Manu Samoa debut at number eight with former sevens star Ed Fidow earning his first cap on the right wing.

"Honoured to represent my country. It has been a dream to play for the Manu and so thankful for the opportunity. Obviously as Samoan born in New Zealand wanting to play for my family and country. I will give it my 120% for us all," said Luamanu.

Western Force first-five Rodney Iona is also included on the bench, while experienced winger Sinoti Sinoti and prop Logovi'i Mulipola make their first starts since 2015 and 2016 respectively.

Samoa number eight Mat Luamanu playing for Harlequins.

Samoa number eight Mat Luamanu playing for Harlequins. Photo: AFP

Fiji squad: Kini Murimurivalu, Benito Masilevu, Jale Vatubua, Sevanaia Galala, Verniki Goneva, Ben Volavola, Henry Seniloli; Akapusi Qera (c), Viliame Mata, Dominiko Waqaniburotu, Leone Nakawara, Apisalome Ratuniyarawa, Manasa Saulo, Talemaitoga Tuapati, Campese Ma'afu. Reserves: Ratu Vere Vugakoto, Eroni Mawi, Ropate Rinakama, Sikeli Nabou, Nemani Nagusa, Serupepeli Vularika, Alivereti Veitokani, Timoci Nagusa.

Samoa: Ah See Tuala, Ed Fidow, Rey Lee-Lo, Alapati Leiua, Sinoti Sinoti, Tusi Pisi, Melani Matavao; Mat Luamanu, Jack Lam, Piula Faasalele, Chris Vui (c), Josh Tyrell, Paul Alo-Emile, Motu Matu'u, Logovii Mulipola. Reserves: Seilala Lam, Jordan Lay, Viliamu Afatia, Joe Tekori, TJ Ioane, Dwayne Polataivao, Rodney Iona, Paul Perez.