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Debut deferred for ‘excited’ Blues new boy Barrett

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Debut deferred for ‘excited’ Blues new boy Barrett | SuperSport



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Super Rugby

Fijian Drua name first players in debut Super Rugby Pacific squad

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The Fijian Drua have announced the first five members of its inaugural Super Rugby Pacific squad for the 2022 season.

The five players unveiled by the new expansion franchise are 2020 Tokyo Olympics gold medallist Napolioni Bolaca, one-test hooker Tevita Ikanivere, Bay of Plenty speedster Onisi Ratave, experienced loose forward Nemani Nagusa and young halfback Simione Kuruvoli.

Bolaca headlines the quintet given his success and experience in the Fijian sevens set-up in recent years.

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A utility back in XVs, the 24-year-old was a key member in Fiji’s successful rugby sevens Olympic Games title defence in July and was named in the 2019/20 World Rugby Sevens Series Dream Team after finishing as the series’ top point-scorer that season.

He will be joined in the backline by Ratave, who will be a familiar name to some New Zealand-based Super Rugby fans after setting the early stages of this year’s NPC alight while playing for Bay of Plenty.

The electric winger has scored three tries in just two outings for the Steamers and has been involved in the Fijian sevens squad since last year.

At the age of just 21, Ikanivere, a former Fiji U20 representative, made his test debut in Fiji’s Autumn Nations Cup win over Georgia last November and will look to add to his solitary test cap through his performances with the Drua next year.

Nagusa is by far the most experienced of the five newly-recruited players, having played 18 times for Fiji between 2012 and 2019.

With professional experience with Aurillac in France’s Pro D2 and the Newcastle Falcons in the Premiership, the 33-year-old is set to provide the Drua with valuable experience in its maiden Super Rugby Pacific campaign.

Kuruvoli, meanwhile, is among the youngest of the new signings, but the 22-year-old, another ex-Fiji U20 player, boasts two test caps after playing against Georgia last year and then starting against the All Blacks in Dunedin two months ago.

Interim Fijian Drua chief executive Brian Thorburn said in a statement that he was delighted with the first wave of player announcements, with the remaining 32 players set to be announced over the course of the next several weeks.

“We’re steaming ahead towards our historic first season, and today’s naming signals our intentions – we are going to delight rugby fans with that typical Fijian flair and playing style,” he said.

“It also underscores our commitment to offer a pathway for Fijian players into Super Rugby. The competition is about to get a whole lot more exciting, and we can’t wait for rugby fans to see our Fijian Drua in action.”

Fiji Rugby general manager high performance unit Simon Raiwalui echoed Thorburn’s sentiments as he emphasised the Drua’s intent of recruiting and developing homegrown talent.

“All five players unveiled today are homegrown and have come through our Fijian Sevens, age group or high performance programmes,” he said.

“It is wonderful to be able to reward these players with a professional contract to play in the world’s best club rugby competition.”

The Drua are also expected to announce its coaching staff in due course with pre-season scheduled to take place in Australia from mid-October.

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Tabai Matson celebrates win in first game as coach of English rugby champions Harlequins

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Former All Blacks centre Tabai Matson was delighted to get a five-point win in his first game as director of rugby at English rugby champions Harlequins while Kiwi compatriot Pat Lam has signed a new five-year contract at Bristol.

Matson has taken over the helm at Harelquins in his first major coaching appointment since he was released from the Chiefs coaching staff after the 2020 Super Rugby season.

Former All Black Tabai Matson with the English rugby premiership trophy won by Harlequins before he became the London club's director of rugby.

David Rogers

Former All Black Tabai Matson with the English rugby premiership trophy won by Harlequins before he became the London club’s director of rugby.

The 48-year-old was proud of Harlequins’ 26-20 win at the Newcastle Falcons on Sunday (Monday NZ time) after two tries from wing Louis Lynagh and scores by England internationals Joe Marchant and Danny Care.

“Coming up here and getting five points was more than we could hope for,’’ Matson said.

“Getting the victory was the focus and getting that done with a team that’s unscathed is a fanstastic start.’’

Harlequins director of rugby Tabai Matson oversees a training session.

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Harlequins director of rugby Tabai Matson oversees a training session.

Matson is no stranger to English rugby after serving a season as Todd Blackadder’s assistant-coach at Bath in 2016-17 before returning to New Zealand for family health reasons.

He had three years on the Chiefs’ staff, serving as attack coach under Colin Cooper for two seasons and defence coach for Warren Gatland in 2020.

His Harlequins coaching team includes highly-regarded former All Blacks first five-eighth Nick Evans, a Harlequins legend as a player, who nows guides Harlequins’ attack.

Matson, who was Fiji’s backs coach at the 2015 Rugby World Cup, is now looking forward to his first Harlequins home game at the Stoop next weekend against the Worcester Warriors.

Worcester will field Kiwi halfback Willi Heinz, who played for Canterbury when Matson was backs coach then head coach.

New Zealand halfback Willi Heinz scores on his premiership debut for English club Worcester after transferring from Gloucester.

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New Zealand halfback Willi Heinz scores on his premiership debut for English club Worcester after transferring from Gloucester.

Heinz, who has earned 13 England caps, scored a try and claimed a try-assist on debut for Worcester in the Warriors’ 36-24 win over London Irish on Saturday. It was his first premiership game since switching from neighbours Gloucester.

Meanwhile, Pat Lam could not crown his new five-year contract as Bristol Bears director of rugby with a win against promoted club Saracens on Friday (Saturday NZ time).

Bristol were semifinalists last year, but lost 26-9 to Saracens, who are back in the premiership after being forced to spend a year in the second-tier due to sustained salary cap breaches.

Bristol Bears director of rugby Pat Lam watches on as his side lose to Saracens in his first game after signing a new five-year contract.

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Bristol Bears director of rugby Pat Lam watches on as his side lose to Saracens in his first game after signing a new five-year contract.

Lam has developed a strong squad at Bristol, including ex-All Blacks Charles Piutau, Steven Luatua and John Afoa and crack Fijian centre Semi Radrada.

The former All Blacks loose forward said it was “an absolute honour’’ to continue at the Bears’ helm.

“To have the opportunity to work with a great group of people, and to represent our community with pride and love is very special,’’ Lam said.

Alex Lewington scored Saracens’ only try and Alex Lozowski kicked seven penalties.

In other opening round games, Chris Boyd’s Northampton Saints had a 34-20 win over Gloucester, the Sale Sharks edged Bath 20-19 on ex-England international Danny Cipriani’s Bath bow, and the Leicester Tigers scored an impressive 34-19 win over champions Exeter Chiefs.

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Champions Harlequins win Premiership Rugby opener

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Champions Harlequins win Premiership Rugby opener | SuperSport – Africa’s source of sports video, fixtures, results and news






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