Power play: FNRL coach Rabele includes Origin stars in World Cup squad

Fiji Bati head coach Joe Rabele, middle, announcing the Fiji Bati 31-member World Cup squad at a press conference held at the Fiji National Rugby League office in Suva on Tuesday, September 06, 2022. With him are FNRL acting CEO Don Natabe, left, and Pastor Ilaitia Tagituimua. Picture: JONACANI LALAKOBAU

Vodafone Fiji Bati coach Josaia Rabele has named a strong squad to the Rugby League World Cup which includes several players who participated in the State of Origin Series in Australia.

Fiji is pooled with Australia, Italy and Scotland at the RLWC which kicks off on October 15 in Hull, England.

Origin players Api Koroisau, Tariq Sims, Daniel Saifiti and Reagan Campbell-Gillard have been named in the 31-member squad, which includes national rugby league big names such as Viliame Kikau, Maika Sivo, Waqa Blake, Tui Kamikamica, Kevin Naiqama and Marcelo Montoya, all of whom played for the Bati when they reached the 2018 RLWC semi-finals in Australia.

Rabele says Koroisau and Sims have shown interest to play for Australia but will join the Bati if they are not selected.

He said his job for this year’s RLWC was tough considering the number of players playing at the top level in the NRL and Super League who had shown interest.

He said his selection was also based around a number of young players with an eye on the 2025 RLWC.

“Before it was easy to select the team for the past world cup. This world cup is more of a headache – there’s a lot of Fijian players playing top rugby league in Australia and in England (Super League),” said Rabele, a former Bati player himself.

“We are trying to build our players for the 2025 Rugby League World Cup and some we had tested in the June Test (against PNG).”

Rabele will name his final 24-member squad before the players assemble in England on September 25 for a two-week training camp.

They will play England on October 7 for a warm-up match and take on Australia eight days later.

The side will be led by Kevin Naiqama and Viliame Kikau. Iosefo Masi, who has switched code to join the Fiji 7s team and Fijian Drua, and Kane Evans (knee injury) have been dropped from the squad.

Fiji Bati squad to RLWC

Backs: Kevin Naiqama (fullback), Marcelo Montoya (wing/fullback), Maika Sivo (wing), Semi Valemei (wing), Waqa Blake (centre), Taane Milne (centre), Mikaele Ravalawa (centre), Braydon Wakeham (halves), Sitiveni Moceidreke (halves), Isaac Lumelume (wing), Sunia Turuva (fullback), Jason Qareqare (wing), Ratu Inoke Vasuturaga (centre/wing), Ilaitia Moceidreke (fullback/wing)

Forwards: Apisai Koroisau (hooker), Joe Lovodua (hookers/halves), Penioni Tagituimua (hooker), Tariq Sims (edge), Viliame Kikau (edge), Daniel Saifiti (middle), Jacob Saifiti (middle), Ben Nakubuwai (middle), Tui Kamikamica (middle), Kobin Sims (middle), King Vuniyayawa (edge), Reagan Campbell-Gillard (middle), Taniela Sadrugu (edge), Pio Seci (edge/centre), Joseph Ratu Vakacereivalu (middle), Lar Manuel Liolevave (middle), Siua Wong (edge).

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