Test debut for Sau

Former Fiji Airways 7s rep, Eroni "The Sledge Hammer" Sau with his 1 year old baby Grace at their home earlier this year. Sau will be playing his first Test match against Scotland this weekend. Picture: RAMA

FIJI Airways Flying Fijians coach John McKee has named 7s star Eroni Sau on the left wing for his Test debut against Uruguay tonight in Gloucester, England, while Toulon’s “bouncer” Josua Tuisova mans the right wing.

Four other changes from last week’s loss to Scotland will see Semi Kunatani replace Viliame Mata in the back row, Henry Seniloli stepping in at halfback and Drua forwards Mesulame Dolokoto and Albert Tuisue in the run on team.

“Eroni Sau also came through the Drua program and was picked up last season by 7s coach Gareth Baber and then named Rookie of the Series,” McKee said.

“Then he went to Perpignan in France. We added him to the squad knowing his form in 15s from before and we wanted to see how he fits into this environment.

He certainly deserves his start on the wing this week through his form in training, and we know what a strong runner he is.

” Tuisova was unavailable last weekend, but has been with the squad all week. And there was good news on the disciplinary front.

“Eroni Vasiteri was cited against Scotland for a high tackle but has been cleared,” McKee explained.

“We admitted that the tackle was high but it didn’t reach the red card threshold and the judicial officer agreed with us, so Eroni is available to play. Semi Radradra had to return to France for a judicial hearing stemming from a club game, and he has also been cleared. But it was frustrating in that it interfered with our preparations with Semi having to fly to France and back and only getting back to us on Friday, and because of that, I couldn’t really consider him for this game.”

This has led to a bit of jiggling in the backline with Niki Goneva moving to centre, and Metuisela Talebula dropping back to fullback. As for Drua fly-half Alivereti Veitokani, McKee said he hoped he would be able to get good game time.

“Freddy is a good up and coming player, but this week we’re keeping Ben Volavola in that starting position at fly-half; partly to build our combinations ahead of the France Test match. I’m hopeful that Freddy gets some good match time coming off the bench at fly-half, and hopefully shows some form and puts pressure on Ben in that position.

“That was the plan last week but unfortunately the early injury to Setareki Tuicuvu changed our plans around substitutions in the backline, so Freddy didn’t get an opportunity at No.10 last week.

“We know the Drua played well in the NRC competition, but the reality the NRC is well below Tier 1 Test match level in terms of intensity. The NRC has given the Drua players an excellent stepping-stone between the Skipper Cup and Test match rugby and is beneficial in developing our best young talent.

“This weekend, we want to set a marker because we’re playing them again at the Rugby World Cup next year. We expect them to use their line-outs well, and they have already scored some tries from their own goal line. We need to work on our discipline around our maul defence. Last week, we defended against the maul quite well, but we gave away too many penalties in that area.

“We’ve seen a little bit more expansive play recently from Uruguay than in the past. They’re certainly trying to move the ball a lot more. Defensively, we are going to have to work hard to keep our structure to deny them opportunities.

“We think they will kick a lot of ball back to us from their own defensive end and we hope to be able to use that to our advantage with our counterattacking.”

Uruguay qualified for Pool D at next year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan with home and away victories over Canada at the start of 2018.

Despite being ranked 18 in the world, Uruguay are considered one of the better fringe sides and bring to Hartpury a very experienced squad with eight players already having played in 50 or more Tests

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