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.”


Fernanda  Vázquez
Women's Feature News Women in Rugby
Vázquez hopes to promote change through sport
World Rugby Women’s Executive Leadership Scholarship recipient Fernanda Vázquez discusses her life in rugby and how her love affair with the game began.
HSBC Biarritz Sevens 2019
Women's News Tournament News Women in Rugby
Nelson: Spain test is start of Rugby World Cup countdown
Scotland, captained for the first time by Helen Nelson, begin a massive year with a challenging test away to Spain in Almeria on Sunday.
HSBC France Women's Sevens 2019
Olympics Women's Feature News Tournament News Women in Rugby
Planning key as Forrest attempts to grow Team GB culture
Great Britain women's sevens coach Scott Forrest talks to World Rugby about plotting a path to Tokyo 2020 while balancing his day-to-day commitments in Scotland.
Lettizia Alcaraz
Women's Feature News Women in Rugby
Alcaraz: 'Life took me towards rugby'
World Rugby Women’s Executive Leadership Scholarship recipient Lettizia Alcaraz was an Argentine international futsal player before finding a home in rugby.
Regina Lunyolo and Kendra Cocksedge
Women's Feature News Women in Rugby
'The onus is on us to inspire girls to play rugby'
World Rugby Women’s Executive Leadership Scholarship recipient Regina Lunyolo talks about her hopes of growing playing numbers while ensuring there is a pathway for female leaders in Uganda.
England Women v France Women - Quilter International
Women's Feature News Women in Rugby
Prospect of fourth Rugby World Cup excites Scarratt
World Rugby Women’s 15s Player of the Year 2019 Emily Scarratt talks about switching from sevens to 15s, forsaking another Olympic Games and the potential of appearing at a fourth Rugby World Cup.
Kim Kan
Women's Feature News Tournament News Women in Rugby
'There is a place for women on boards of directors'
Hong Kong Rugby Union Director of Women's, Kim Kan talks about life in her new role and what she hopes to achieve over the next three years.
Soledad Galleguillos
Women's Feature News Women in Rugby
Rugby gave Galleguillos the tools to succeed in life
World Rugby Executive Leadership Scholarship recipient Soledad Galleguillos has enjoyed a busy 2019 in rugby and beyond.
HSBC Cape Town Sevens 2019 - Women's
Media release Women's Sevens News Tournament News Women in Rugby
Black Ferns Sevens claim first ever Cape Town title
New Zealand win their second title of the season after beating Australia 17-7 in the final of the HSBC Cape Town Sevens 2019 in South Africa.
Girls Rugby TRC Cup
Women's Feature News Women in Rugby
TRC Cup building girls' community in south-east Asia
The third edition of the Singlife Girls Rugby TRC Cup was attended by teams from seven countries and its organisers have bold ambitions for the tournament's future.