1 Jun 2006

Fiji prepares to meet the Junior All Blacks in opening IRB Five Nations match in Suva

9:34 am on 1 June 2006

The Junior All Blacks head to Fiji this Friday for the opening game of the inaugural International Rugby Board's Five Nations tournament, in Suva on Saturday.

The tournament which also involves Tonga, Samoa and Japan will be played in New Zealand, Australia and Tokyo.

Co-coach Ian Foster says while the Pacific teams will be tough, it's a good opportunity for his players to make their mark, ahead of the World Cup in France next year.

"It's going to be a real challenge for our players, some of them haven't been quite exposed to that level before, and I guess the question is going to be answered about whether we've got the ability to step up."

And the selectors have named a strong lineup for Saturday's game .. they are Sosene Anesi, Anthony Tuitavake, Niva Ta'auso, Cameron McIntyre, Caleb Ralph (vice-captain), Stephen Donald, Jamie Nutbrown, Nick Williams, Josh Blackie, Steven Bates, Bernie Upton, Tom Donnelly, John Afoa, Corey Flynn (captain), Saimone Taumoepeau.

Reserves: Campbell Johnstone, Wyatt Crockett, Hoani MacDonald, Johnny Leo'o, Kevin Senio, Tamati Ellison, Viliame Waqaseduadua.

Meanwhile, Fiji captain, Simon Rawailui brings a wealth of experience to his side.

Rawailui last played for Fiji against Scotland in 2002 and after that decided to step down for family reasons.

The 31- year old is now back for his country, and while he's looking forward to the challenge, he also has his sights on France next year.

My family is settled now, and I've made myself available right up to the World Cup, and I'm looking forward to getting my head down, and doing some hard work.

And our correspondent in Fiji Satish Narain says Fiji mad rugby fans are looking foward to seeing their Super 14 idols in the flesh.

People want to go and watch the Super 14 players, players who are on the fringe of making the All Blacks side go and play. We've watched them on the tele on the Super 14 games over the last 14, 15 weeks people want to go and see them play live, and I think that will fill the stadium that will certainly have the crowd buzzing, it's going to be an absolutely wonderful atmosphere come Saturday and I think Fiji is bracing for it.