Wales brace themselves for the giants of Fiji

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The Independent Online

Welsh forwards can expect to meet both Mohammed and the mountain when the Fijians pack down on their seven-match tour, which opens against Wales A at Bridgend on Saturday.

On the one side of the tourists' scrum will be the skipper, Joeli Veitayaki, weighing in at 20st 6lbs, while propping up the tight head side will be the even bigger Viliame Cavubati, who tips the scales at 22st 4lbs.

It means that any front row that Wales can muster for the international on 11 November will be conceding at least 10 stones once the Fijians have thrown a 16st hooker into the equation.

Wales ran headlong into Veitayaki on last year's tour of the South Seas. The King Country prop scored his side's only try in a 23-8 defeat in Suva, but reckons this year's team "is far, far better because new, young players have come in."

Veitayaki is one of 13 players who ply their rugby trade in either New Zealand or Australia who are in the tour party. A change in the constitution of the Fijian rugby union opened up the way for overseas based players to represent their country.

It means the Welsh can expect a far tougher time than 16 months ago, especially as the Fijians arrive having recently won the South Pacific Championship for the first time since 1989.

Traditional Fijian flair is bound to keep the defences of the top five clubs from last season, Wales A and Wales on their toes, while it promises to be a heavyweight battle up front.

FIJI TOUR ITINERARY (2.30 kick-off unless stated): 21 October Wales A (Bridgend). 25 October: Neath. 28 October: Cardiff. 1 November: Treorchy. 4 November: Pontypridd. 7 November Llanelli. 11 November: Wales (3.0) (Cardiff Arms Park).

n Junior Paramore, a member of the Western Samoan rugby union team, announced yesterday that he is switching to rugby league to play for the Auckland-based Hunter Valley Mariners in the new Australasian Super League to start next year. He becomes the sixth Western Samoan player to switch to league since the World Cup.