The tournament which will be played in Rarotonga on August 4, will see the Cook Islands taking on Tahiti in one-off test match at the BCI Stadium in Nikao.
The winner of this year’s tournament will progress to the latter stages of the Oceania qualifying system for the 2019 RWC in Japan.
The side will progress to a two-match series against Asia 1 (winner of the Asia regional RWC qualifying system) with the winner of the series then earning a spot in the Rugby World Cup 2019 repechage tournament.
In confirming the hosting of the biennial event in the Cook Islands, Oceania Rugby in a statement said it was one of their leading XVs tournament for performance and development unions and began in 2007.
“The significance of this tournament to the Oceania region cannot be understated in regards to the valuable competition and opportunities that it provides to the development and performance unions within the region,”
Bruce Cook, Rugby Services Manager Oceania from World Rugby, said: “This is the first time the Cook Islands have hosted a RWC qualifying event since 2008 against Niue.
Cook Islands Rugby Union (CIRU) president Moana Moeka’a is excited about the prospect of the country hosting an international match in Rarotonga again, especially against neighbours Tahiti.
“The game against Tahiti is only three months off, but it will come around quickly. We need to work hard to ensure the success of this game as a RWC qualification event and an international match against our closest neighbours,” Moeka’a said.
“It’s been a long time between drinks. The last time we played Tahiti in Rarotonga was in 2001 and before that in 1985 when Cook Islands hosted the Mini South Pacific Games.”
The national team made its first appearance on the regional stage at the 1971 South Pacific Games in Pape’ete where it won a silver medal and despite Tahiti not having beaten Cook Islands in an international match since their first ‘official’ encounter in 1985, Moeka’a says “things have certainly changed in the last four years with Tahiti bringing in players to bolster its national team”.
He further stated “Oceania Rugby – with the support of World Rugby – has been working hard in this region in terms of providing assistance and competition to developing nations should they get to the next level of qualification.
“We have seen this at the recent Oceania Championships on the Gold Coast where Fiji and Samoa joined New Zealand and Australia as preparation for their respective World Rugby Under 20 tournaments later this month.”
CIRU has appointed top local rugby union coach Walter Tangata to select the national team for the upcoming test.
Tangata in an earlier interview said their preparation would start proper after the completion of the domestic rugby league season which ends next week with the finals.
- RK/Oceania Rugby