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.”


WRWC 2017 final: New Zealand v England
Women's News Tournament News Women in Rugby
Watch LIVE rugby TODAY ... New Zealand v England, RWC 2017
On Friday, rugby fans get the chance to watch the classic Rugby World Cup final of 2017, featuring the top two sides in the world, New Zealand’s Black Ferns and England’s Red Roses.
Get Into Rugby PLUS
Women's Feature News GIR Women in Rugby
GIR PLUS impact felt on and off the pitch
Noame Rabeni, a Get Into Rugby PLUS coach in Fiji, talks to World Rugby about the positive affect the programme has had on her and her students.
England v Wales - Women's Six Nations
Women's News Tournament News Women in Rugby
Accidental referee McLachlan hoping for RWC homecoming
Amber McLachlan took up refereeing as an antidote to a long-term injury but after more than seven years of hard work has set her sights on a place at Rugby World Cup 2021.
US Women's Eagles player Tess Feury (centre)
Women's Feature News Women in Rugby
Women's Eagles star nursing the sick in New Jersey
We highlight more members of the rugby family working tirelessly to help people during the COVID-19 pandemic, including Women's Eagles player Tess Feury.
Guatemala v El Salvador
Women's Feature News Women in Rugby
Guatemala and El Salvador make history
The women's teams of Guatemala and El Salvador played their first international match earlier this month, breaking new ground in their respective countries.
Rugby Europe Trophy 2020: Germany v Switzerland
Men's Feature News Tournament News Women in Rugby
Swiss build for a sustainable future
Rugby Suisse CEO Veronika Muehlhofer says there is more to the success of rugby in the country than a record World Rugby Men’s Ranking of 28th.
Filoi Eneliko
Olympics Women's Feature News GIR Olympic Qualifying Tournament News Women in Rugby
Eneliko standing up for women in the Pacific
Former Samoa sevens player Filoi Eneliko discusses the reasons behind her decision to participate in the inaugural Women's Sport Leadership Academy for High Performance Coaches.
Nathalie Amiel - HOF 1
Women's Feature News Hall of Fame Tournament News Women in Rugby
Nathalie Amiel: The 'country girl' turned Hall of Fame inductee
Former France international and World Rugby Hall of Fame inductee Nathalie Amiel, who won 56 caps and experienced five Rugby World Cups as a player and a coach, discusses her incredible career in the game.
World Rugby logo
Media release Women's News Women in Rugby
World Rugby extends Women’s Executive Leadership Scholarships programme after global success
Ahead of International Women’s Day, World Rugby has announced an extension of its Women’s Executive Leadership Scholarship programme.
Aimee Barrett-Theron
Women's Feature News Tournament News Women in Rugby
Barrett-Theron 'excited for women's rugby' following Euro trip'
South African referee Aimee Barrett-Theron caught up with World Rugby following her recent experience in the Women's Six Nations.