Samoa and Tonga to meet in Rugby World Cup 2021 qualifier

The journey on the road to Rugby World Cup 2021 continues for the two rivals in Auckland on 14 November, when they meet in the final match of the Oceania regional qualification process.

Manusina head coach Ramsey Tomokino says getting to Rugby World Cup 2021 will be “hugely important” for the development of women’s rugby in Samoa.

Samoa face Tonga on Saturday for the right to play in the four-team Final Qualification Tournament that will decide the 12th and final participant at next year’s tournament in New Zealand.

The final game of the revised Oceania regional qualification process was due to take place in Apia back in April, but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It will now be played on neutral territory at the Trusts Arena in Auckland.

Auckland is one of RWC 2021’s host cities, and the venue for the draw on 20 November. Samoa are desperate to return there and showcase their talent to the large Samoan diaspora in the North Island city as well as the people back home.

“It is hugely important for Samoa, with more games on the radar for Manusina and more broadcasts to the local villages, some of the families will be more understanding of the importance of their daughters and nieces wanting to play rugby,” said Tomokino.

“In terms of attracting players to us like our men's team around the globe, we want women to realise you can have the same exposure to international rugby that they see other countries exposed to.

“We want to be able to play the Black Ferns and the Wallaroos, and if we can get access to our best players, I believe we can be competitive.

“Our team getting to the Rugby World Cup will be a bucket list item for our players and certainly an experience our management team would relish.

“How great would it be for the region to have (first-time qualifiers) Fijiana and one of Manusina or Tonga represented? Naturally, we want the other Pacific team to be Samoa.”

Developing new talent

Unable to call upon any talent from back home in Samoa for this crunch encounter, Tomokino has instead selected his squad from a group of 60 New Zealand-based players.

The recent Farah Palmer Cup has been a blessing in that it has given his players much-sought-after game time. But the competition came at a cost as Tomokino’s daughter and Samoa’s main lineout operator, Taylah Hodson-Tomokino, picked up an injury.

“Given the current climate, our preparations have gone as best as they can,” he reflected.

“What will hurt us most is the players we can't bring to New Zealand; we are without key players from Samoa, Australia, USA and parts of Asia.

“However we have to also look at the opportunity that provides for us to grow and develop more Manusina players.”

Thanks to World Rugby investment, the Samoa Rugby Union were able to send Manusina to New Plymouth for a training camp and a warm-up fixture against Farah Palmer Cup Northern League outfit, Taranaki Whio.

“We are grateful to the Taranaki Whio team and coach La Toya Mason for being able to accommodate us and giving us a match after a tough season for them,” Tomokino said.

“As a result, we are hoping to establish a pathway for our players to possibly integrate into the Taranaki system as well as provide an opportunity for our Island-based players.”

Milestone match for Tonga

Samoa’s last experience of Rugby World Cup was in 2014. At that stage, Tonga had only played two women’s tests, both were in 2006 and saw the side concede a half-century of points, including a 60-5 loss to Saturday’s opponents.

“Out of all our Pacific (contenders), Samoa and Fiji, we're the newbies because we've only been in this game for a little while, so this is definitely a big thing for Tonga... it's a milestone,” acknowledged Tonga assistant coach, Sione Pulu.

“We haven't been in the playing system for too long but getting to this point has been something worth celebrating.”

Tonga played Samoa again in 2018 and the result was equally one-sided, 62-26 to Manusina.

“Off the top of my head, we will have seven players from that match,” revealed Tomokino. 

“That was our first campaign after being absent from international 15s rugby since RWC 2014; we had 23 debutants out of a squad of 26.

“In fact, we have debuted 47 players in our three campaigns since 2018.

“We obviously want to stem that tide and build continuity, but the current climate will mean more debuts for this match.”

Having played 31 tests since their introduction to women’s international rugby in 2000, Samoa have far greater test match experience.

And Pulu knows his Tongan team, who got this far with victory over Papua New Guinea, will have to be at their best to keep their interest in Rugby World Cup 2021 alive.

“We're expecting a really big game. Manusina has been here before more times than we have, and we look at Manusina as being a worthy opponent for us. Being our Pacific sisters, they will definitely be ready for us, so we've got to bring our best game.”

Centuries-old rivalry

It is two weeks to the one-year anniversary of Fijiana clinching direct qualification to RWC 2021 at Samoa’s expense through the Oceania Rugby Women’s Championship.

Samoa have not played since then and Tomokino insists his team will be sufficiently fired up despite starting the game as overwhelming favourites.

“We let ourselves down in our last campaign in not getting the desired result we were after. It means we have to go the long way round to a goal we desire, and that's not a bad thing, it does allow us to grow as a team.

“We are well aware of the threat that any Tongan sporting team can bring, we know they will be up for the challenge, and they have some very good athletes.

“They are also predominantly Auckland-based, so we are expecting that they will be more cohesive as our players are spread around New Zealand.

“Any Samoa versus Tonga battle is a great battle and a rivalry that is centuries of years old.

“We will be working hard and going out there to put our best game we can forward.”

Read more: Fijiana out to make waves at Rugby World Cup 2021 >>

Photo: Oceania Rugby

Last updated: Nov 12, 2020 9:25:31 AM
Rugby - 2019 Rugby Africa Womens Cup - South Africa v Kenya - Bosman Stadium - Brakpan - South Africa
Women's Rugby World Cup Feature News Tournament News Women in Rugby women-news-2021 RWC2021
Zenay Jordaan “proud” of South Africa career as she looks ahead to Rugby World Cup 2021
The Springbok Women fly-half talks to World Rugby about her 11-year international career, which could stretch to a sixth Rugby World Cup appearance in 2021.
Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens 2019 - Women's
Olympics Women's News Tournament News Women in Rugby Women-news-sevens
The seven rules driving Japan women’s Tokyo 2020 preparation
Team manager Akane Kagawa gave an insight into the Sakura’s Olympic ambitions during a recent appearance on Asia Rugby Live.
Rugbaí Beo
Women's Feature News Women in Rugby women-news-regions
“TG4 have set the benchmark — it's up to everyone else to follow suit”
Máire Treasa Ní Dhubhghaill, Eimear Considine, Máire Ní Bhraonáin and Kieran Hartigan talk to World Rugby about the Rugbaí Beo broadcast which made Irish history.
Rugby World Cup 2021 Draw
Women's Rugby World Cup News Tournament News Women in Rugby mz-advisory women-news-2021 RWC2021
Rugby World Cup 2025 set to break new ground as tournament expands to 16 teams
World Rugby has confirmed that the women’s edition of the Rugby World Cup will expand to 16 teams from 2025 onwards.
Photo of former Japan captain and founder of One Rugby, Toshiaki Hirose
Women's Sevens Men's Rugby World Cup News Women in Rugby RWC2019
One Rugby: A new movement promoting the sport from former Japan captain Toshiaki Hirose
Former Japan captain Toshiaki Hirose and his non-profit One Rugby are behind a new movement to promote all forms of rugby amongst the Japanese people.
New Zealand v Wales - Rugby World Cup 2019: Bronze Final
Olympics Women's Rugby World Cup News Tournament News Women in Rugby
Six of rugby’s best crossover athletes
From Sonny Bill Williams to Christian Wade, we recap six of the best players to have left their mark in rugby while playing to a high level in another sport.
Su Carty
Women's Feature News Women in Rugby women-news-power
Su Carty put scholarship plans on hold to answer ‘Ireland’s Call’
The World Rugby Council and IRFU Committee member returned to work as a psychiatric nurse in Dublin during Ireland’s initial period of lockdown.
Photo of Brazil sevens player Baby Futuro at Rio 2016
Women's Sevens News Preview Women in Rugby Women-news-sevens
Women’s sevens returns in South America as they bid farewell to a star
Women’s rugby sevens returns in Uruguay with the annual South American Sevens, played in Montevideo this weekend. The tournament, which will mark Baby Futuro’s final outing for Brazil, will be streamed live on the SAR’s app.
Rugby World Cup joint host selection process
Women's Sevens Rugby World Cup News Tournament News Women in Rugby mz-advisory rwc-neutral
Key elements approved for future Rugby World Cup awarding
The World Rugby Council has approved a progressive package of recommendations by the Rugby World Cup Board that reflects the organisation’s ambition to select future men’s and women’s Rugby World Cup hosts via a transparent, best-practice host selection process.
Wales Women coaches Warren Abrahams and Rachel Taylor
Women's Rugby World Cup Feature News Tournament News Women in Rugby women-news-2021 Women-news-coach RWC2021
Warren Abrahams and Rachel Taylor “building for the future” in Wales
The incoming Wales head coach and skills coach hope to inspire future generations of female players while creating a stable and competitive environment.