Tuapati focuses on set pieces
Being one of the three hookers in the Flying Fijians team, Tuapati Talemaitoga’s job description is about the forwards winning their own set pieces in the scrums and lineouts.
With veteran hooker Sunia Koto still in the frame to be the number one choice, Talemaitoga will have to be at his best if given a chance knowing that Vili Veikoso is also in the running.
The 26-year-old who plays for the Woodland club in NZ has been sharing this role with Veikoso from last season but with Koto returning to national duties this year, they have to fight for who will be the second choice hooker.
The Lau man played in the starting role in the PNC win against Samoa and it was enough to earn him a spot in the team to the RWC in NZ.
Fatiaki out to learn more
His performance in the Flying Fijians in the Pacific Nations Cup earned him a contract for the Worcester team next season and for Ravai Fatiaki, he still looks up to senior players to learn from them in the Rugby World Cup.
The 24-year-old who can play at inside and outside center, is from the island of Rotuma but has maternal links to Tailevu where he grew up and attended Lelean Memorial School, which groomed him in his secondary school days as a flyhalf.
After leaving Lelean, Ravai played for Tailevu in provincial rugby with Iliesa Keresoni and made his debut in the national fifteens team against Japan in the PNC in 2009.
Although he missed selection for the Northern Hemisphere tour in the 2009 and 2010 season, he did not give up his hope of wearing the Fiji colors again.
At the start of this year, Ravai moved from Tailevu to Naitasiri where Fiji assistant coach Joji Rinakama guided him to be in the Fiji Warriors team for the PRC before he was selected for the PNC tournament.
Ravai’s performance in the win against Samoa playing alongside Nicky Little was rewarded when he was given a chance to face the All Blacks in the Test in July.
Still counting himself as an understudy to Seremaia Bai, Ravai said he will be happy with whatever role he can play for Fiji at the RWC, knowing that Gabby Lovobalavu and Albert Vulivuli are also in the running for the number 12 and 13 jumpers.
Qera out to lift the bar
He was rated amongst the best in his position in the last Rugby World Cup and Flying Fijians openside flanker Akapusi Qera is aiming to lift the bar in New Zealand.
Coming from a family known in the sport of cricket, Qera turned to rugby when he was in high school in Suva Grammar before joining his older brother Tiko Matawalu in the Nadroga team in 2005 with current teammate Sisa Koyamaibole and Netani Talei.
In the same season he played in the Colonial Cup with the Coastal Stallions before being named in the Fiji Under 21 side and the Fiji Warriors before progressing to the Fiji team in the same year in 2005.
Qera signed a contract for the Gloucester Club in the Guinness Premiership competition and it was in the same year he was named Fiji Rugby Player of the Year and was nominated for Fiji Sportsman of the Year, finishing second to golfer Vijay Singh.
The 27-year-old Lakeba man, who is one of the nine players from the 2007 RWC, believes that it will be hard to get a spot in the starting lineup in the current team.
Do-or-Die for Ravulo
Hailing from a province in Fiji which is known for their motto of "Ma’e na Ma’e" - which is "Do-or-Die", Malakai Ravulo wants to do the same for the Flying Fijians in the Rugby World Cup.
Ravulo is from Nokonoko Village in Saivou, Ra, but plays his rugby with the North Harbour club in the New Zealand ITM competition.
The 107kg loose forward started his rugby as a backline player while playing for Ratu Sukuna Memorial School in Suva before moving to QVS and played for the Under 19 team in 2002 in the Deans trophy competition.
In the same year, he represented Fiji in the Under 21 side before he moved to the Hellensville Club, in North Shore in NZ.
His talents were quickly noticed by NZ Sevens coach Gordon Tietjens who included him in his Sevens squad in 2009 but the Ra lad did not make the final team in the IRB Sevens Series.
The 26-year-old has been the first choice openside flanker for the North Harbour team in the New Zealand provincial competition and made his debut in the national side in the Europe Tour last year.
Ravulo knows that to be in the starting fifteen does not come easily as it will require a lot of sacrifice with 2007 RWC number seven Akapusi Qera still in the frame for the position.
He is the first from his village to wear the Fiji jumper and he knows he will have to play with a big heart to do his province and Fiji proud.
Chance of a lifetime for Somoca
It is a chance of a lifetime which most rugby players only dream of but Flying Fijians prop Setefano Somoca wants to maximize this opportunity at the Rugby World Cup.
Somoca never played top level rugby in the Deans Trophy secondary school competition and his first taste of provincial rugby was in the Namosi Under 21 team.
Hailing from Natokalau village in Kubulau in the province of Bua, he played for the Northern Sharks team in the Colonial Cup competition under coach Ifereimi Tawake in 2007.
The 29-year-old’s journey to the limelight of his career was in 2008 when Tawake invited him to Sigatoka to play in the Nadroga team and since then he has been the first choice in the Stallions tighthead prop position.
Somoca proved his worth when he was named in the Fiji Barbarians team in 2009 and was later recruited by the Fiji Police Force in Sigatoka.
His debut in the national colors came last year after a strong performance in the Digicel Cup and Farebrother Sullivan Trophy Challenge earned him a spot in the team to the Europe Tour in November.
This season he played for the Fiji Warriors in the PRC before joining Canterbury in New Zealand where he learned a few tricks of the trade from the Franks brothers.
Challenge huge for Lewaravu
The challenge on the most senior member of the Flying Fijians locking department Wame Lewaravu is huge.
The Sale Sharks based forward knows that his position comes with a lot of responsibility.
With Ifereimi Rawaqa ruled out because of injury and Kele Leawere retiring from rugby, the coaches will look to Lewaravu’s experience in guiding his young locking partners of Leone Nakarawa, Rupeni Nasiga and Sekonaia Kalou in New Zealand.
Born into a chiefly family in Bukuya in the interior of Ba, the 27-year-old has maternal links to Cuvu in Nadroga where he started his rugby career in the Kaji competition.
Lewaravu is one of the players in the Fiji team that has also tasted success in secondary school rugby when he was part of the Suva Grammar School team that won the Deans trophy for the first time in 2001.
He played for Naitasiri in the Colts Division and also in the senior team before moving to Nadroga in 2006 where he teamed up with the likes of Netani Talei and Akapusi Qera under coach Joji Rinakama.
Lewaravu knows the Fiji locks are faced with the task of winning quality ball from set pieces and it is something they are looking forward to.
Koyamaibole wants a repeat performance
The same outcome and performance in the Rugby World Cup four years ago is what Sisa Koyamaibole is after when the tournament kicks off in New Zealand on Friday.
Apart from veteran Nicky Little who is playing in his fourth RWC, Koyamaibole is the only other player making his third appearance in the fifteens rugby world stage since making his debut 10 years ago in 2001 against Samoa.
Koyamaibole was one of the few local Fijian players to be selected for the 2003 World Cup and in 2004, he moved to Number 8 and he also played for the Pacific Islanders team.
He was then given a contract with New Zealand club Counties Manukau.
He played every test for Fiji between 2001 and 2004, however between 2005 and 2007, Koyamaibole did not play any Tests for Fiji after some disagreement with former coach Wayne Pivac.
In the 2007 RWC, Koyamaibole was one of the most experienced members, one of only four players to have had more than 30 caps at the time and was also part of the national team that knocked Wales out of the tournament by winning 38-34, and who also played in Fiji’s first quarterfinal at a World Cup since 1987.
At overseas club level, he has represented Taranaki, Padova in Italy, Toulon and currently plays for Sale Sharks.
For the 30-year-old who is known for his physical approach in carrying the ball forward, he has set his target in trying to reach the quarterfinals in NZ.
Kenatale has a lot to prove
He is one of the local based players in the team but Nemia Kenatale has a lot to prove for the Flying Fijians in the Rugby World Cup.
Kenatale is one of the two halfbacks that got the nod from the selectors to be in the team with Vitori Buatava.
For the 25-year-old, the road to selection has not been smooth sailing as other capable players like Emosi Vucago and Nikola Matawalu also eyed the number nine jumper.
Originally from Tailevu, Kenatale was born in Tavua where his father worked for the Gold Mining Company in Vatukoula and it was where he started playing rugby at an early age from primary school level.
He played for his home province in Tailevu in 2006 before joining the Knights franchise in 2007 and it was also during this time that he got selected to the Fiji Barbarians in the Pacific Rugby Cup.
In 2008, Kenatale debuted against Tonga in the PNC and since then has been part of the Fiji Fifteens team to overseas tours and also in the Tests at home.
Now a policeman by profession, Kenatale knows that his position requires players who can push rugby laws to the limit to give his team quality possession on the field.
Kalou has something special to offer
Flying Fijians lock forward Sekonaia Kalou has something special to offer at the Rugby World Cup.
With just 4 days left for the RWC to kick off in New Zealand, the 27-year-old is the only player in the 30-member team that has represented Fiji in three different sports.
Kalou played for the Fiji Under 20 Basketball team in the Oceania Championships in 2004 when he was still at Suva Grammar School and his first World Cup was with the Fiji Men’s Netball team in the tournament which was played at home in 2005.
Better known as Sekonaia Qaraniqio in his rugby career, he moved to New Zealand in 2006 where he played for the Second Division North Otago side.
He played alongside fellow Fijian player Viliame Veikoso and made his way into the First Division Otago team in 2007.
He made his international debut for Fiji in June 2010 against Australia and played in all of Fiji’s matches for the 2010 PNC and was selected to tour with the Fijian XV in November 2010.
In the PNC this year, his last minute run-away try against Samoa captured the eyes of selectors and although he did not play in the last two Test matches against Tonga because of injury, his past form was enough to make the trip to NZ.
For the Veisabasaba man from Nadroga, rugby runs in the family with younger brother Api Ratuniyarawa also a Fiji Warriors rep and now playing club rugby in NZ while another brother Alipate Bete plays for Suva in provincial rugby.
For Kalou, he knows his brothers will look up to him to set an example for them but for rugby fans, it will not be an easy outing knowing what is expected of the team.
RWC keeps getting better for Little
Known as "Lailai" among his rugby mates which is a direct "I Taukei" translation of his surname, Nicky Little holds many records in the Flying Fijians history book.
With just four days remaining before the 2011 Rugby World Cup kicks off, Little will become the first Fijian player to play in his fourth Rugby World Cup.
Little holds the record of 652 points at Test level, the most scored by any national rep and has also made the most test appearances, standing at 65.
He was once the youngest member of the Fiji team, when he made his debut at 19 against South Africa in 1996.
But in this RWC, he is the oldest in the 30-member team as he will celebrate his 34th birthday on the 13th of this month.
Little was born in NZ but started his rugby career when he attended primary school in Western Australia before moving back to Waikato to attend Te Awamutu College.
It was here that his teacher moved him from prop to flyhalf because of his ability to kick, before his uncle Lawrence Little, who is a former national rep invited him to join Fiji in 1996.
For Little, this was a special moment in his life, it was at a time when Fiji rugby was still in the doldrums after failing to play in the 1995 RWC and for someone who was still young with a long way to go in his career, he did not regret the decision he made.
Little has played under coaches Brad Johnstone, Mac Macallion, Wayne Pivac and Ilivasi Tabua.
He returned to Fiji rugby again for the trials this year and played in the PNC when many big names decided to move on, however Little believes he still has something to offer.
His roots to Fiji is through his grandmother who was from Yadua in Nadroga.
After 15 years of putting his body on the line, Little’s message is still the same for this RWC.
Goneva out to prove his worth
Rugby fans remember him well in the Sevens rugby code but Vereniki Goneva wants that same performance for the Flying Fijians in the Rugby World Cup.
Goneva captained the Fiji Sevens team that ended their 10-year losing streak in 2009 in the Hong Kong Sevens.
In the same year, he made his debut in the Fifteens rugby code in the Pacific Nations Cup against Samoa.
He was born in 1984 in Lautoka and hails from Nagado, located in the interior of Nadi.
He attended the local primary school before moving to high school at Ratu Navula Secondary.
He was first spotted by former Fiji Sevens coach Waisale Serevi playing as a wing for Nadi in the Digicel Cup competition and Serevi was impressed by his work rate which Goneva carried into his first season in the 2007 and 2008 IRB Sevens Series.
In the same year, he played in the Colonial Cup for the Western Crusaders and was selected into the Fiji Barbarians team for the 2007 Pacific Rugby Cup.
He later got an offer which he took to play in the French Division Two competition and was the number one choice for the winger’ spot in 2009 and last year’s November tours.
For the 27-year-old, the challenge is huge and he knows the expectation from rugby fans in that position where Filimoni Delasau took the RWC by storm four years ago.
Daveta lucky to get the nod for RWC
His name is new to top level rugby and prop Waisea Daveta is counting himself lucky to be in the Flying Fijians team for the Rugby World Cup.
With Penijamini Makutu ruled out because of injury and other props like Alefoso Yalayalatabua, Vesi Rarawa and Manasa Saulo facing traveling sanctions as they are members of the Navy team, the selectors opted for the young Daveta for the New Zealand tournament.
Daveta played for the champion Lelean Memorial School team that won the Deans trophy in 2008 and was part of the Fiji team that played in the Under 20 RWC in 2009 teaming up with Saulo and Makutu as the front row.
He played for the Toorak Blues team in the Suva competition before moving to play for Tailevu in provincial rugby last season.
Hailing from Nawaikama in Gau, he is a member of the High Performance Unit and was part of the Fiji Warriors team this year where he got the selection to be in the wider training group for the RWC.
After the PRC, Daveta joined national reps Setefano Somoca and Nemia Kenatale in the Crusaders Academy where they trained alongside All Blacks props, Ben and Owen Franks.
The 23-year-old who is one of the youngest players in this team played his debut game in the Fiji jumper when they lost to Japan in the PNC when he came on as a replacement for Setefano Somoca.
The experience he has learnt from the Franks brothers assisted him a lot especially in the last Test against Tonga where he played at tighthead prop and got the approval from the selectors to be in the final team.
Daveta knows that a lot has been said about his selection and he will have to prove critics wrong in the RWC if he gets a chance to play in any of Fiji’s pool games.
Bai wants to end career on a high
The 2011 Rugby World Cup will definitely be the last World Cup tournament for Seremaia Bai and he wants to finish off with the best memories.
Bai as he is known to many was brought up in Nadali where he attended the village school at primary level and later went to Lelean Memorial School where he represented the school in the Under 19 level.
He is one of the players in the team that has played for Fiji from the Under 19, Under 21 and Under 23 levels and later played for Tailevu in the local provincial championship in 1999 before his international debut against Japan in 2000 in a match which Fiji won 47-22.
In the same year he was in the national side that played against Samoa, USA, Canada and Italy and later in 2002 he joined Southland for the National Provincial Championship in New Zealand, and went on to tour with Fiji for the November Test series in the Northern Hemisphere.
Surprisingly for Bai he was not in the team that played in the 2003 RWC but that did not stop him from playing for the Fiji team again in 2004 and 2005 where he was also in the combined Pacific Islanders team that toured the Southern Hemisphere.
Bai captained the Tailevu Knights in the 2006 Colonial Cup, and then signed with Clermont in France and played for Fiji in the PNC in the same year.
In the 2007 RWC he was the first choice inside center and played a major role in the quarterfinal loss to South Africa after Nicky Little was injured in the last pool game against Wales.
Bai now said while we may have some different views on the selection of the team, we should understand that they are in NZ for all of us at home.
Lovobalavu cleared to play
The doctors gave him the green light to be in the Flying Fijians team to the Rugby World Cup but Gabrieli Lovobalavu knows it comes with a price.
He only played in the opening Pacific Nations Cup game against Tonga where he injured himself and was ruled out for the rest of tournament but the selectors knew that he is the right candidate for the New Zealand trip.
The 26-year-old from Tunuloa in Cakaudrove grew up in Savusavu where he played his rugby at Savusavu Secondary School before moving to Suva for further studies for a career in primary school teaching.
Lovobalavu did not complete his studies in Suva.
Instead he played for the Northern Sharks team in the Colonial Cup in 2007 and was drafted to play for the Fiji Warriors team during the Pacific Rugby Cup.
It was in the Warriors team where he caught the selectors’ eyes to be in the team to the 2007 RWC and was one of the youngest players to be selected four years ago at the age of 22.
He played against Australia and South Africa in the quarterfinals and since then has been the regular choice at inside center.
Now in NZ and already taking part in contact training, Lovobalavu said that with Seremaia Bai and Albert Vulivuli already forming a deadly combination he will be happy with whatever role he is allocated.
Vulivuli to take his family name to another height
It is a household name in soccer but for Albert Vulivuli, he has made it in another sport.
Older brother Thomas Vulivuli is a former national soccer rep while younger sister Finau is the first local female FIFA badge holder referee who has officiated in the Women’s Soccer World Cup and also during major soccer tournaments in the country.
Albert Vulivuli, who hails from the Hidden Paradise of Fiji, Savusavu, decided to take a different direction from his brother while at high school in Saint Bedes College.
He received a scholarship to attend Hamilton Boys High School in Waikato in 2004 and a year later, Vulivili was part of the Waikato Under 20 team and the Waikato B team from 2005 to 2008 before moving across to Australia.
The 26-year-old started playing professional rugby in Australia, playing for the Queensland Reds in the 2009 Super 14 season but did not have a lot of game time.
He moved to France shortly after the season ended to join his new Top 14 club Bourgoin and made his Top 14 debut against Racing Metro 92 in September 2009, playing on the wing.
Vulivuli played 16 games for them, all on the wing.
After the 2009-10 Top 14 season ended, he joined Racing Metro 92.
After Kameli Ratuvou pulled out of the national team for the 2010 end of year rugby Tests, Vulivuli was called in as a replacement where he made his Flying Fijians debut.
Best known for his strong running and ferocious tackles in the Top 14 competition in France, now Vulivuli wants to continue with his trademark in his first Rugby World Cup.
Luveniyali ready to backup Little
It is time for the apprentice Waisea Luveniyali to show rugby fans they don’t need to panic when the master flyhalf Nicky Little hangs his boots after this Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.
He has been Little’s understudy from the 2007 RWC and although he did not have a lot of game time four years ago, the indication is clear, especially in the past two Tests against Tonga, that he will be allowed to run the show more in NZ.
Luveniyali is not new to the rugby fraternity as he has come through the ranks from a rugby Kaji player in Savusavu before joining QVS where he played a key role in the 2003 Deans trophy win and was part of the Western Crusaders team that won the Colonial Cup in 2006.
Luveniyali was a late call-up to the Fiji team in 2007 after playing for Fiji in the Under 21 World Cup.
The young flyhalf was put right into the starting lineup to debut against Australia A in the PNC where they drew the game 14-all.
After this performance, he was selected for the 2007 RWC where he played only against Australia in their 55-12 loss.
In Little’s absence, the 26-year-old Kasavu, Tailevu lad was the first choice flyhalf for Fiji in the 2008 and 2009 PNC season and with his master already playing an important role in the apprentice’s adventures, he knows with the guidance, he has grown up quickly.
Waqaniburotu out to learn from the best
He has the potential to lead from the front but for Dominiko Waqaniburotu, this Rugby World Cup is all about learning from the best.
The Waikato provincial side loose forward has captained Fiji in the past during the PNC but this time with the likes of Deacon Manu, Sereimaia Bai and Akapusi Qera leading the charge, he will take the back seat role and be the understudy for future outings.
Waqaniburotu’s earlier rugby years were back in high school in RKS and although he did not make the national team in the younger grades, he continued in NZ with the Waikato Under 20 team in 2009.
Last year he was selected for the Waikato side in the NZ provincial competition and in the same season made his debut for the Flying Fijians against the Wallabies.
He missed the Europe Tour in November but made himself available for the PNC this season and is one of those players in the team that can play in the locks and the loose forward also.
For the 25-year-old from Lau, he will be happy in whatever role he is allocated in the RWC knowing that from the opening pool game against Namibia, they have to show that they will be a contender for a quarterfinal spot.
Keresoni knows what is ahead of him
Playing in the shadow of his brother is always a mammoth task and Flying Fijians fullback Iliesa Keresoni knows what is ahead of him.
His older brother Kameli Ratuvou was the first choice fullback in the side that reached the quarterfinals in the 2007 Rugby World cup but was unable to be in the team this year because of injury.
Now, Keresoni is faced with a reality check on whether he will be able to live up to what his brother had achieved four years ago, in making the Number 15 jumper his own in this Rugby World Cup.
The 24-year-old captained the Lelean Memorial School "Dream Team" in 2006 that won the Deans Trophy before playing for the Tailevu Knights in the Colonial Cup and for the Fiji Warriors.
Keresoni’s first Test match was against Tonga in 2008 and he has been a regular rep in the Fiji team but he knows that in NZ, he will have to step up and be better than his older brother.
Buatava to prove his worth
He missed selection in the 2007 Rugby World Cup but that did not stop Vitori Buatava from knocking on the selection door to don the Flying Fijians jumper to New Zealand this year.
Buatava was one of the three players that contested the halfback position four years ago but did not make the cut when the selectors opted for experienced players, Mosese Rauluni and Jone Daunivucu, to be in the team.
With both players retiring from national duties this year, Buatava again made himself available and proved his worth when he got the starting spot in the last two Test matches against Tonga.
Born in Melbourne, Buatava has close links to Rewa as his father is from Lomanikoro.
26-year-old Buatava played rugby for the Gold Coast Breakers in 2004 and was later selected in the Western Force Super 14 squad in 2006.
Buatava who now plays his rugby in Italy made his debut for Fiji in 2007 but did not appear in the national colors last season because of injury.
Counting himself lucky after getting the nod with Nemia Kenatale as the two halfbacks in the team, he believes the presence of Mosese Rauluni, the 2007 RWC captain as his coach, will give him a lot of comfort in the Number 9 jumper.
Talei to erase the pain of 2007 RWC
The pain of missing the Flying Fijians last two games in the 2007 Rugby World Cup is what Netani Talei wants to erase in New Zealand.
Talei played in three pool games in 2007 before picking up an injury that ruled him out for the rest of the tournament which included the famous win against Wales and the quarterfinal with South Africa.
Now four years on, the Tavualevu man who started his rugby career when he was at Marist Brothers High School and Wesley College in NZ, is eyeing the 2011 RWC as a platform to again showcase what he is known for.
He played for the Raiwaqa club and the Suva team in 2003 and 2005 before joining Nadroga with his current loose forward partner Akapusi Qera in 2006 under the guidance of current national assistant coach Joji Rinakama.
His debut for Fiji was in the close 23-20 win against Samoa in 2006 where he also secured a contract to play for the Worcester Warriors in England.
Being one of the nine players from the 30-member team that are survivors of the 2007 side, the 28-year-old wants to do better in this World Cup.
Ma’afu holds Fiji links as motivating factor
His link to Fiji is through his mother and it is something Campese Ma’afu holds close to his heart when donning the national jumper for the Rugby World Cup.
Interestingly for the Flying Fijians loosehead prop, this trip also marks a special moment in his family with older brother Salesi Ma’afu playing for the Wallabies and younger brother Apakuki in the Tongan national team.
Last year, the Ma’afu family made an interesting mark in rugby history when the two brothers, Salesi and Campese, squared off in a Test match between Australia and Fiji.
The Kolovau, Tonga native is also related to captain Deacon Manu whose mother also hails from Tavuki in Kadavu and who is married to former Tonga national rep George Ma’afu.
The West Harbour 114kg prop knows they will be in the spotlight with the front row always an area of concern in the team but he is ready to do Fiji proud and carry on with the family rugby legacy.
The Fiji team was the first team to arrive in New Zealand yesterday and have moved to Pukatani where they will stay for a week before moving to their base camp in Tauranga.
Veikoso battles for RWC spot
The makeup of the front row was the deciding factor in his inclusion in the Flying Fijians to the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.
Viliame Veikoso is one of the three hookers in the team and he is counting himself lucky to be named in the final 30-member squad.
The 29-year-old said that with Sunia Koto and Tuapati Talemaitoga also in the race, he has to wait for the coach’s decision on whether he will get the nod to be in the team.
Veikoso played rugby at high school when he was at QVS and later went to Wesley College in New Zealand before playing for second division New Zealand side North Otago where he won the Heartland Championship in 2005 and 2006.
Hailing from Nabua village in Cakaudrove, he is closely related to Openside Flanker Akapusi Qera who is his first cousin and for Veikoso it is time to repay the selectors with the faith they have placed in him.
Deacon knows the expectations are huge
He is shouldered with the responsibility to lead the Flying Fijians to the Rugby World Cup and for Deacon Manu, the challenge is the highlight of his rugby career.
Born in New Plymouth, New Zealand, in 1979, he returns to his birth place leading a side in which he has maternal links to in Tavuki, Kadavu.
Now playing in Wales, the 32-year-old began his rugby career with the Waikato province in 1999, playing against Japan.
His colorful career includes playing for the Chiefs in the Super Rugby competition from 2001 to 2006 before heading to Wales.
Manu has international experience playing for the New Zealand Maori, having played against the British and Irish Lions during their tour of New Zealand in 2005 and also against Fiji at the TFL Stadium.
He made his debut for Fiji in 2009 against Scotland and captained Fiji in their game against Australia in June 2010.
He later returned for the 2010 end of year tour and was handed the captaincy of the Fiji team again.
As the Flying Fijians leave our shores for New Zealand, Manu knows the expectations from the rugby public is huge for them to deliver in NZ.
Nalaga set to follow in his father’s footsteps
The footprints set by his father in the inaugural Rugby World Cup 24 years ago is what Napolioni Nalaga has set his goal on following.
Kavekini Nalaga Senior donned the national jumper and played in New Zealand for the side which reached the quarterfinals in 1987.
They both played in the same position as a wing with the young Nalaga boasting a profile which is far better than his father’s.
But it is at the international level where Nalaga has failed badly although he has represented Fiji to the RWC in the Under 19, Under 21 and also in the failed Melrose Cup campaign defence in 2009.
The France Top 14 competition highest try scorer in the 2008 and 2009 season where he was also voted Player of the Year, is yet to enjoy the same success at Test level.
His first appearance for the Pacific Islanders team resulted in a red card in 2008 and surprisingly since his debut in the national jumper in November 2009, he has played in 5 Tests and has not tasted a win.
Known as the "Black Beast" in France, Nalaga’s worst season was this year when he failed to return to his club in France and it resulted in his contract being terminated.
The 25-year-old knows the RWC is a chance of redemption in a tournament and a nation where his father once set their family history as a household name in rugby circles.
Koto strives for perfection
The critics of whoever wears the Number 2 jumper makes number one hooker Sunia Koto always try to be perfect whenever he gets a chance to play.
Coming back into the Flying Fijians selection frame since his last outing in the 2007 RWC quarterfinal, Koto knows that he still has a lot to offer to the side.
The Yadrana lad from Lau did not play rugby at high school in Marist but took up the sport later and started his career as a prop.
Later he was drafted into the hooker position because of his mobility and made his debut against the NZ Maori in 2005 which also had current captain Deacon Manu in their lineup.
Koto was one of the only two players in the 2007 team that was locally based then, but now playing in Europe, he will be shouldering the responsibilities of getting it right from the set piece in the lineouts and scrums to allow the backline to fly into motion.
Tough journey for Masi
The journey to be in the Flying Fijians team to the Rugby World Cup has not been an easy ride for loose forward Sakiusa Masi.
For the former Suva Grammar School Number 8 who was a key member of the team that won the Deans trophy for the first time in 2001, the presence of school teammate Wame Lewaravu in this side has given him a lot of assurance that he can compete against the best.
He is trying to win a starting spot in a position where the side is rich with talent with a loose trio of Akapusi Qera, Netani Talei and Sisa Koyamaibole who have stamped their mark in the 2007 RWC.
Now the 29-year-old from Saqani in Cakaudrove who plays his rugby with the Montepelier team in the France Top 14 knows that this chance might not come again after missing out on selection 4 years ago.
Masi is one of the 21 players who are going to their first RWC.
Nakarawa defies all odds
The odds were stacked against him to be in the Flying Fijians 30-member squad for the Rugby World Cup.
For lock forward Leone Nakarawa, the decision to resign from the Fiji Military Forces to be eligible for selection for the team to the Rugby World Cup was one of the toughest choices he has ever made in his life.
It was between representing the nation in the sport he loves and the organisation which spotted the talent he had and gave him the break.
The man from Kadavu did not play rugby when he grew up in Vatukoula and attended Tavua College but he took up the sport when he joined the Army when he was just 18 years of age.
The 23-year-old stood out in the trials to select the 50-member squad to prepare for the World Cup and was not selected as he was a member of the RFMF but Coach Samu Domoni Junior later drafted him into the squad.
He forced his way into the 35-member squad that was announced but missed the trip to New Zealand for the Test against the All Blacks last month.
Nakarawa said that leading up to the naming of the final 30-member squad, it was a difficult time knowing he will miss being selected because of travel sanctions but he had to make the call which he believes the military understood as they have wished him the best for the Rugby World Cup.
Now he looks forward to setting foot in New Zealand for the first time and playing against the best from other nations who he always watched as a young boy.