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Rugby World Cup opens up for Pacific teams

Saturday 14 November 2015 | Published in Regional


Rugby World Cup opens up for Pacific teams
The rugby nations of Fiji, Tonga and Samoa will contest a new Pacific Tri Nations tournament to earn direct entry to the 2019 World Cup – with a chance also for the winner of the Oceania Cup. AFP

PACIFIC – Up to four Pacific rugby nations could potentially feature at the next World Cup following the announcement of a revamped qualifying process.

Fiji, Tonga and Samoa missed out on the 12 automatic qualifying spots from the 2015 tournament.

But the traditional rivals will contest a new Pacific Tri-Nations over the next two years – with the top two teams earning direct qualification to the 2019 World Cup in Japan.

The third-placed team will play a home and away play-off with the top team in the Rugby Europe Championship, excluding Georgia, with the overall winner also qualifying for the World Cup.

Additionally, the Oceania Cup winners will play the highest-ranked Asian Rugby Championship team for a place in the repechage tournament, from which the final World Cup berth will be found.

Tournament Director for the American Samoa Rugby Union, Iiga Peseta Sa Mavaega, says the new qualifying path is a boost for developing nations in the Pacific.

“It’s every nations dream to participate in a World Cup and for us, a nation that we’re trying to develop rugby, we’re certainly quite thankful for the opportunity again for us to compete in that level.

“I think our participation at the Oceania Cup this year really encourages us to look forward to some more tournaments for us to participate in and with this opportunity with the World Cup I think it’s quite exciting to look forward to that opportunity”.

Papua New Guinea are the current Oceania Cup champions, while Cook Islands, Solomon Islands and Tahiti have also featured in recent years.

All 20 World Cup teams will be determined by November 2018, and are made up of:

- The 12 automatic qualifiers from Rugby World Cup 2015: New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Argentina, Ireland, Scotland, France, Wales, Georgia, Japan, England and Italy.

- The highest-ranked team from the Rugby Europe Championship (excluding Georgia).

- The top two teams from a Pacific Tri-Nations championship.

- The winner of a Europe/Oceania play-off between the third place team from the Pacific Tri-Nations and next-best team in the Rugby Europe Championship.

- The winner of a home and away playoff between Canada and USA.

- The loser of that will play home and away against the top-ranked South American team (excluding Argentina), with the winner qualifying for the World Cup.

- The winner of the Rugby Africa Championship.

- The winner of a final repechage tournament, featuring teams from Europe, the Americas, Africa and either Asia or Oceania.- RNZI