Expanded Oceania Championship doubles as Rugby World Cup qualifier

Samoa head coach Ramsey Tomokino admits his new-look side are something of an unknown quantity as they chase qualification for Rugby World Cup 2021.

The Oceania Rugby Women’s Championship gets underway on Monday with four teams – hosts Fiji, Samoa, Papua New Guinea and Tonga – vying for a place at Rugby World Cup 2021 in New Zealand.

Australia A and a New Zealand Black Ferns Development XV are also competing in the tournament that will be played over four rounds from 18-30 November at Churchill Park in Lautoka, Fiji.

The highest placed of the non-qualified teams will join the eight teams who have already confirmed their presence at RWC 2021.

A top-seven finish at the last Rugby World Cup in Ireland two years ago guaranteed New Zealand, England, USA, France, Canada, Australia and Wales their place, while South Africa became the first regional qualifier back in August.

The New Zealand Black Ferns Development XV are accompanied in Pool A at the Oceania Rugby Women’s Championship by Samoa and Tonga, while Fiji, PNG and Australia A come together in Pool B.

The first round will only feature two matches – Samoa v Papua New Guinea and Fiji v the Black Ferns Development XV – after Australia A v Tonga was cancelled on health grounds and declared a draw.

World Cup dream

Fourteen of the Samoan squad, which also includes 10 debutants, have already tasted success at Churchill Park this year after winning the Asia-Pacific Championship campaign in May and June.

Despite going undefeated at that tournament with wins over Hong Kong and Fiji, head coach Ramsey Tomokino is remaining level-headed.

“Last year was the first time since 2014 that we’d had a 15s programme, so we have blooded a whole new group of players and rebuilt the team really.

“Obviously, we had the opportunity to come here in May and blood more players. I think we’ve had 39 debutants over those two tournaments and we’ve another 10 in this tournament.

“We are missing some key girls, but it comes down to coaching and what we can do with the girls we have available.

“Our expectation is to come here and do the best we can; we’re also under no illusion how tough this is going to be as everyone wants to go to the World Cup.”

Diverse squad

Players based in five different countries make up a diverse Manusina squad that, Tomokino points out, is still getting to know each other.

“We were fortunate to have a light scrimmage against the New Zealand A team earlier in the week, as an intro to the girls, and to see where we are at.

“It is probably the first time we have had a couple of days together. Every other time we’ve landed in Fiji before, that’s been it, and we’ve played three days later. So, we are a little bit better prepared this time.”

Fiji are chasing a hat-trick of titles having won in 2016 and in 2018 when they defeated Samoa 43-12 on the final day.

For Tonga, last year’s tournament marked the first appearance of a women’s 15s side in international rugby since the Women’s Pacific Tri-Nations in 2006.

Player pathway

As well as doubling as a Rugby World Cup qualification tournament, the inclusion of the two invitational teams adds an extra layer of competition and the chance for New Zealand and Australia to test the depth of their talent pool.

Twelve capped Black Ferns are included in coach Wayne Maxwell’s squad which also features a number of new faces.

“We’ve come over with a view to developing more players in our high performance programme,” said Maxwell.

"We’ve got some really good talent coming off our NPC, our national provincial tournament, who have been selected for this tour.

 “So, I’m excited about having a look at some new girls and giving some more game time to girls who played in the super series and the test series against Australia.

 “I’ve watched a bit of Fiji and Australia’. I’m not sure what Papua New Guinea are like, but the quality of rugby has got better and better in the women’s space.”

 

Last updated: Nov 17, 2019 1:54:32 PM
Jo Yapp of England
Women's News Tournament News Women in Rugby Women-news-coach
Jo Yapp planning for the long-term at Worcester Warriors Women
Jo Yapp talks to World Rugby about her promotion at Worcester, working with the Barbarians and her coaching philosophy.
Kazakhstan's Anastassiya Khamova
Women's News Tournament News Women in Rugby
Kazakhstan women aiming for Rugby World Cup return
Once one of the leading women’s teams in international rugby, Kazakhstan are attempting to mount a revival in 15s rugby.
Portia Woodman - Sao Paulo Sevens
Olympics Women's News Tournament News Women in Rugby Women-news-sevens
Commentator Rikki Swannell picks seven women who helped change the face of rugby sevens
Sky Sports Rugby commentator Rikki Swannell picks seven players who embody the growth that women’s sevens has made since the inaugural World Rugby Sevens Series.
Elaine Vassie
Women's News Women in Rugby women-news-power Women-news-coach
Elaine Vassie putting down roots with the Dallas Jackals
Dallas Jackals assistant general manager and assistant coach Elaine Vassie talks to World Rugby about her new life in the USA, where she is helping the game to flourish.
HSBC Kitakyushu Sevens 2019
Feature News Women in Rugby Women-news-coach
Chiharu Nakamura takes on new challenge to grow women’s game in Japan
Japan sevens star Chiharu Nakamura has taken on the role of player/general manager for a brand-new club in Fukuoka, eager to create more opportunities for women’s rugby in the country and a career pathway when the time comes for players to hang up their boots.
HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series logo for generic releases
Media release Sevens News Tournament News Women in Rugby mz-advisory Challenger Series
New Zealand awarded titles as HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2020 concluded
The remaining rounds of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2020 have been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
New Zealand All Blacks School Visit
Women's News Tournament News Women in Rugby Women-news-coach
Melissa Ruscoe ready for next step on rugby journey
Melissa Ruscoe, who captained New Zealand in both rugby and football, talks to World Rugby about her career and coaching ambitions.
Chloe Hill-Huse
Women's News Tournament News Women in Rugby women-news-regions Women-news-coach
Chloe Hill-Huse on developing as both a player and official in Canadian rugby
Canada U18 hooker and certified referee Chloe Hill-Huse is keen to emulate compatriot Julianne Zussman’s success.
WRWC 2017: Final - England v New Zealand
Women's Rugby World Cup News Tournament News Women in Rugby women-news-2021
Rugby World Cup: The story so far
World Rugby takes a stroll down memory lane to look back at the eight previous women’s editions of Rugby World Cup.
Ricardo Ramirez
Women's News Women in Rugby women-news-regions Women-news-coach
Coach Ricardo Ramirez working hard to develop female rugby talent in USA
USA women’s U20s head coach Ricardo Ramirez discusses the growth of female age-grade rugby and helping to provide a pathway for future test stars.