Oceania kicks off qualification for RWC 2015
Tahiti, Cook Islands, Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea will fight it out in the first stage of the Oceania regional qualification process for Rugby World Cup 2015 when the Oceania Cup begins on 6 July this weekend.
The winner of the Oceania Cup, which is one of a number of events funded by the International Rugby Board through Rugby World Cup commercial revenues, will play Fiji in 2014 for a place at RWC 2015 as Oceania 1, and will join Australia, England Wales and play-off winner in Pool A.
Tournament hosts and defending champions Papua New Guinea will head into the tournament as favourites but they will be very wary of the threats from Cook Islands and Solomon Islands in particular, who shocked Niue to finish second at the 2011 Oceania Cup and in doing so achieved their highest ever IRB Ranking of 69th.
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Lefau Harry Schuster, President of FORU, said that as a Rugby World Cup 2015 Qualifier, the Oceania Cup had taken on increased importance in 2013.
“The Oceania Cup is our regional fifteens championship and a crucial tournament for our developing Unions," said Schuster.
"We have seen a vast improvement in the standard of this tournament and with the winner earning the right to take on Fiji for a direct qualification spot to RWC 2015 in England, we’re looking forward to some excellent Pacific Rugby.”
Rugby World Cup Limited Chairman Bernard Lapasset said: “Teams from the Pacific Islands have contributed so much to the success of Rugby World Cup and world Rugby on and off the field and I expect England 2015 to be no different.
“That success has led to Rugby World Cup being the financial engine for the development of the Game underwriting the delivery of important tournaments such as the Oceania Cup.
"Indeed, the IRB is making unprecedented investment in Rugby throughout the Oceania region and standards are rising all the time. It is important for the development of every Union that there is a direct pathway towards the pinnacle tournament in the sport, Rugby World Cup, and we provide that opportunity to every IRB Member Union.”
Saturday 6 July
13:00 Cook Islands v Tahiti
15:15 Papua New Guinea v Solomon Islands
Tuesday 9 July
13:00 Solomon Islands v Cook Islands
15:15 Tahiti v Papua New Guinea
Saturday 13 July
13:00 Solomon Islands v Tahiti
15:15 Papua New Guinea v Cook Islands