Kukis to face Asian challenger

Friday March 23, 2018 Written by Published in Rugby Union
The Cook Islands are advancing to the next stage of the Rugby World Cup qualifiers after Tahiti was ruled to have fielded ineligible players in last year’s test match. Andoni Jimenez (pictured) was one of the two players that illegitimately made their debut back in 2013. For the full news story see page one. 18032309 The Cook Islands are advancing to the next stage of the Rugby World Cup qualifiers after Tahiti was ruled to have fielded ineligible players in last year’s test match. Andoni Jimenez (pictured) was one of the two players that illegitimately made their debut back in 2013. For the full news story see page one. 18032309

The Cook Islands’ 2019 Rugby World Cup hopes are alive once again, after a World Rugby decision that Tahiti fielded ineligible players in the test match played last year.

This stunning development was announced yesterday by Oceania Rugby, on behalf of the governing body, who ruled that two ineligible players had been used in Tahiti’s 13-9 win last August.

Cook Islands Rugby Union chief executive Ben Koteka was over the moon with the result, saying that they finally got closure from the test. Although it did come seven months after the actual match, he said that the CIRU had been expecting the outcome, which is why they pursued it in the first place.

Koteka said that the time is now to start preparing for the match, which will be played against the winner of the Asian Championship in June.

“This has opened up another opportunity, and we hope and pray that other Cook Islanders recognise the importance of this event and make themselves available,” Koteka said.

“We will be looking at anyone and everyone to commit to the cause, and three months out we need to know who’s available now, because there is a shrinking window of opportunity.”

The opponent that the Cook Islands will face in June has yet to be decided, as the Asian Championship does not take place until next week.

It will either be Hong Kong, Malaysia or South Korea, none of which have qualified for a Rugby World Cup before.

That tournament will conclude at the beginning of June, and the Cook Islands will host the first leg, with the second leg taking place in Asia.

Should the Cook Islands emerge victors over the two-leg series, they will enter into the repechage tournament, with Canada currently being the only confirmed team.

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