Former Newport skipper Simon Raiwalui, now head coach of the Fijians, has named four new caps in his matchday 23 for the first of five warm-up matches before they meet Wales in Bordeaux in their opening fixture at the World Cup on Sunday, 10 September.
Toulon centre Waisea Nayacalevu has been handed the captain’s arm band for the opening fixture and will line-up alongside the blockbusting Josua Tuisova. The Racing 92 player was an OIympic gold medal winner in sevens rugby in 2016.
Both Nayacalevu and Tuisova played against Wales at the 2019 World Cup in Japan, as did scrum half Frank Lomani, flanker Levani Botia, who was at centre four years ago, and hooker Sam Matavesi.
Their midfield combination means Bristol Bears star centre Semi Radradra has to be content with a place on the bench alongside the experienced outside half Ben Volavola. The No 10 jersey will be filled by another new cap in Caleb Muntz.
The New Zealand-born Muntz is another top-class alumni of Warren Gatland’s old school, Hamilton Boys, and helped to steer the Fiji Drua into the quarter-finals of Super Rugby Pacifica this year. He is joined by his Drua half-back partner Lomani.
Another Drua debutant is wing Selestino Ravutaumada. He spent two years playing rugby league with the New Zealand Warriors before returning to the 15-a-side-code and has enjoyed a breakthrough season in Super Rugby.
Top 14 player Lekima Tagitagivalu, who is at Pau, makes his bow in the back row alongside the experienced Botia and Gloucester’s Albert Tuisue. Wating to win his first cap off the bench is Drua second row Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta.
Fiji go on to play in Samoa a week later and also face Japan and France and England before meeting Wales in Bordeaux.
Meanwhile, Australia have a weekend off before they play their third game of the summer when they host New Zealand at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Saturday, 29 July. Eddie Jones’ side have already lost 43-12 to South Africa in Pretoria and 34-31 to Argentina in Sydney.
They go on to face New Zealand again in Dunedin on 5 August and then meet France in Paris on 27 August before opening their World Cup campaign against Georgia in the French capital.
The other Pool C teams, Georgia and Porertugal, are also in action shortly. Portugal welcome the USA to the Algarve on 12 August for a repeat of their World Cup qualifying game, while Georgia host Romania on 12 August and the USA on 18 August.
Fiji (v Tonga): Sireli Maqala (Bayonne); Jiuta Wainiqolo (Toulon), Josua Tuisova (Racing 92), Waisea Nayacalevu (Toulon, captain), Selestino Ravutaumada (Drua); Caleb Muntz (Drua), Frank Lomani (Drua); Peni Ravai (Queensland Reds, Sam Matavesi (Northampton Saints), Mesake Doge (Drua), Isoa Nasilasila (Drua), Temo Mayanavanua (Lyon), Lekima Tagitagivalu (Pau), Levani Botia (La Rochelle), Albert Tuisue (Gloucester)
Replacements: Tevita Ikanivere (Drua), Eroni Mawi (Saracens), Luke Tagi (Provence)i, Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta (Drua), Viliame Mata (Edinburgh), Peni Matawalu (Drua), Ben Volavola (Racing 92), Semi Radradra (Bristol Bears)