The biennial Oceania Rugby Cup, the region’s showpiece event for development and targeted unions, has an extra edge this year with the winner of Friday's encounter between the Cook Islands and Tahiti progressing through to the next stage of Rugby World Cup 2019 qualification.
The winner of the one-off game in Rarotonga, the largest of the Cook Islands, will take on the winner of the Asia Rugby Championship 2018 in a home and away play-off for a spot in the global repechage tournament for Japan 2019.
Tahiti have never beaten the Cook Islands before in four attempts and are ranked 43 places below their hosts in 91st position in the World Rugby Rankings.
“We feel we are the outsiders and the Cook Islands are the favourites but in rugby everything is possible. We hope we can perform to our best and win this game,” said Charles Tauziet, chairman of the Tahiti Rugby Union.
While admitting to not knowing too much about their opponents, Cooks head coach Walter Tangata believes that if his side turns up on the day the 2013 champions have every chance of winning a second Oceania Rugby Cup title.
“I guess it’s more about maintaining the structure and game plan and focusing on what we need to do. If we do that right, we will be successful.”
The match will be streamed live on the Oceania Rugby Facebook page.