The Fijian Drua have named a further six players for the 2022 Super Rugby Pacific season.
Former Olympic Gold Medalist Kitione Taliga has been added alongside former Fijian U18 and New Zealand U20 prop Kaliopasi Uluilakepa, former NRC Drua centre Apisalome Vota, Fiji U20 lock Isoa Nasilasila, Nadroga flanker Rusiate Nasove and Sydney University second rower Ratu Leone Rotuisolia.
“We are really gaining momentum now as we announce Fijian Drua players 17 through 22. Fans will again notice a strong focus on our young stars coming through our highly efficient domestic high performance pathways, something we at the Drua and Fiji Rugby are very proud of," Fijian Drua Interim CEO Brian Thorburn said.
"Fans will also note the return of former NRC Drua players.
"Many of the players know each other and other members of the wider squad, which is always a plus.”
Taliga adds to the growing Sevens representation in the squad, having played for Stade Français after helping Fiji to their inaugural Sevens medal in 2016.
He is joined by Uluilakepa, who was a standout in New Zealand's World Rugby Junior Championship winning-side in 2018.
Since then, he has featured for Northland, making the move back to Fiji after being added to the Hurricanes extended squad in 2020.
They are joined by Drua standouts Rusiate Nasove and Apisalome Vota, with Vota helping the Drua to their NRC title in 2019.
Rounding out the signings is Rotuisolia, who has come through the ranks of Sydney Uni, eventually named in their first grade side in 2020.
With two further batches of signings to be confirmed, Thorburn was excited about their prospects heading forward.
Kaliopasi is an outstanding addition to the Fijian Drua and we are delighted to welcome him back into our vuvale. He is already well known in Fiji as a schools shotput record holder, and has played alongside other Fijian Drua squad members for Marist Brothers High School team. We are very proud to confirm that Kaliopasi has declared his eligibility for Fiji and the Flying Fijians. This is one of the key objectives of the Fijian Drua and a massive boost for our national side. We can’t wait to watch this 22-year old showcase his prowess in Super Rugby," he said.
Thorburn added: “It is also wonderful to be able to welcome back Suva’s Apisalome Vota, who was part of the NRC Drua which won the competition in 2018. He has been part of the Fijian Warriors and Latui teams, and his hard running skills will give the coaching staff attack options in the midfield.
“It is equally great to see 2016 Olympics gold medallist Kitione Taliga work his way into the squad, having previously featured for the NRC outfit in 2018. Kitione is a two-time HSBC World Rugby Sevens series winner with the Fijian 7s. He brings in in experience from his time at Stade Français in the top tier of France’s Top 14 competition. Fijian fans are well aware of his creativity on the park as a flyhalf, fullback or backline utility.
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“Lock Isoa Nasilasila is yet another example of the grit of Fijian players. He had 4 caps for the Fiji U20 side in 2019 before unfortunately breaking his leg and thus missing out on the World Junior Championship. Isoa was out of action for 5 months but remained focused on his rehabilitation. He returned stronger to claim a place into the 2020 Fijian Warriors team for the Pacific Rugby Championship (PRC). Isn’t it brilliant that his determination and continued hard work now earns him a place in the Fijian Drua squad?
“Bolstering our forwards’ stock is Nadroga flanker Rusiate Nasove, who has worked his way through the domestic 7s and provincial 15s pathways. He was a member of the 2019 NRC Drua and the Fijian 7s squad. Rusiate has good aerial skills and that natural ball playing ability that Fijian forwards are renowned for.”