Fiji confident ahead of All Blacks Test

Flying Fijians coach Vern Cotter has named his 23-man squad to play the All Blacks on Saturday in Dunedin.

Peni Ravia, Sam Matavei and Mesake Doge will lead the forward pack, guided by Leone Nakarawa in the second row and Albert Tuisue at backrow.

The backline is packed with experience in Ben Volavola and Simione Kuruvoli who will share the halves position. Captain Levani Botia and Waisea Nayacalevu marshall the midfield, Nemani Nadolo and Eroni Sau are on the wings and Kini Murimurivalu is at full-back.

Seta Tuicuvu will be covering substitute for full-back, first five and halfback while three debutants have been named on the bench.

Coach Vern Cotter said despite the short turnaround, he's got a team that's confident ahead of this weekend's match.

"We haven't got all our team, but we've got a team that's confident to play the All Blacks," he said.

"We will be under cover, it'll be a dry ball, we're going to play Fijian rugby, we're going to play the rugby that suits us and that we're good at. We're not going to play somebody elses rugby, we're going to play our rugby."

It's a big night for Simione Kuruvoli who will get the opportunity to start in his second game for the Flying Fijians, after halfback Frank Lomani, along with Mosese Sorovi and Teti Tela couldn't travel to Christchurch due to the recent Covid-19 outbreak in Australia.

Kuruvoli will be marking Aaron Smith who will captain the home side.

Cotter said it's up to the forwards to look out for him.

"We will need leadership and the forwards to be very good because we have to protect Simione Kuruvoli who is only having his second game with Fiji against the All Blacks, and his opponent is Aaron Smith, so it will be a great day for him, therefore, the forwards must be strong to protect him."

"[Kuruvoli] has big shoes to fill but he has trained really well. He's been speaking well and connects well with Ben Volavola, he's got Kini Murimiruvalu at full-back to guide him as well... so there's some big boys that will look after him."

The European-based players have quickly adapted into camp, he added.

"Eroni Sau has trained very well and he has fitted in quickly. He has impressed us and had a very good season with Edinburgh so he's continuing that form."

"Nemani has had a big season with Leicester with Kini Murimurivalu and Waisea Nayacalevu who has also had a good season."

The All Blacks will head into the game following a record 102-0 over an inexperienced Tonga side last weekend.

While it's been 10 years since Fiji played New Zealand, at the same location they played in 2011, Cotter expects the Fijians will put them under some pressure.

"They had a good run against Tonga last week so they're better off for it, and they're trying a few new combinations with Brodie Retallic coming into lock with [Patrick] Tuipolotu."

"They haven't got confirmed combinations in their team, so there's opportunity for us if we play well, and play together, to put them under pressure and that's our intention to put them under pressure."

Cotter said while the goal is to play well, the team want to lift the spirits of the nation that have been hard-hit by Covid-19.

"We've been happy with the preparation. It hasn't been ideal but when we see what's happening in Fiji, we just want to play and play well, and hopefully that'll lift spirits on the island."

Fiji will play the All Blacks at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin after Manu Samoa play Tonga at Mt Smart Stadium in a Rugby World Cup qualifier.

Flying Fijians v All Blacks squad:

Peni Ravai, Samuel Matavesi, Mesake Doge, Temo Mayanavanua, Leone Nakarawa, Johnny Dyer, Mesulame Kunavula, Albert Tuisue, Simione Kuruvoli, Ben Volavola, Nemani Nadolo, Levani Botia {c}, Waisea Nayacalevu, Eroni Sau, Kini Murimurivalu. Reserves: Peni Narisia *, Haereiti Hetet, Leeroy Atalifo, Tevita Ratuva, Peceli Yato,Setareki Tuicuvu, Eneriko Buliruarua *, Manasa Mataele *. (*) debutants in the squad.