WES Naiqama will lead the Vodafone Fiji Residents XIII side in the 2013 Rugby League World Cup (RLWC) build-up match against Italy on October 12 at the St Marys RLC ground in Penrith, Australia.
The former Fiji Bati skipper has been given the task to lead the 'shadow national team', which will have a good mix of local and overseas-based reps.
Bati coach Rick Stone will select the team from the Battle of the Bati clash between the Fiji Residents and New South Wales Country today at Albert Park in Suva and add with the players based in Australia. Naiqama, who is set to join the National Rugby League (NRL) club Penrith Panthers for the next two years, is ready to lead the team against Italy which is making its debut in the top flight.
He said guiding the Fiji Residents XIII was a stepping stone for him as he aimed to make the Fiji Bati team for the 2013 RLWC in England.
"The biggest challenge would be jelling and getting the combinations together," Naiqama said.
"There are a lot of players putting their hands up to play for Fiji which is a good thing for the future (of the sport in the country)."
Stone said he would include a handful of Fijian players playing in the NRL competition for the match against Italy.
"We will judge the game tomorrow (today) and see where we need some strengthening and we will try and combine that with some Australia-based second tier players along with some players that will play tomorrow (today at the Battle of the Bati)," the former Newcastle Knights mentor said.
"Probably, we will have five or six NRL players playing in the game against Italy."
"It's a pretty important game for everyone to get together. It won't be a full strength Test side, obviously there are few players that are undergoing some minor operations after the NRL season that are unavailable."
The Fiji Residents and NSW Country clash will kick-off at 2.30pm. Entry to this game is free.