Cook Islands to play Fiji for a place at RWC
The Cook Islands are one win away from securing a place at Rugby World Cup 2015 in England after defeating Papua New Guinea 37-31 to claim the 2013 Oceania Cup.
The Cook Islands will now play Fiji in 2014 for a place at Rugby’s showcase event. The winner of that match will qualify as Oceania One and will join Australia, hosts England, Wales and the Play-off winner in Pool A.
In front of a capacity crowd of just over 7,000 in Port Moresby, the Cooks delivered a composed performance in a thrilling match to come back from 12-3 down late in the first half to go into the interval with a 15-12 lead thanks to two quick tries from Jacob Masters and Ioane Ioane.
The second half was no less dramatic and despite the Cook Islands racing into a 29-12 lead with a quarter of the match to go, four tries in the final quarter from the home side, including a fine score from Butler Morris in the final minute, meant that the Cook Islands’ passage was not secure until the referee blew for full time.
Rugby World Cup Limited Chairman Bernard Lapasset congratulated Cook Islands and paid tribute to the immense contribution of the Pacific Islands to Rugby World Cup.
“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 England 2015 will be no different.”
"The 2013 Oceania Cup with its incredibly competitive matches showed the true passion for Rugby in the region and I would like to congratulate Cook Islands on their victory and keeping the Rugby World Cup dream alive."
“Rugby World Cup success has delivered 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.”
Total IRB tournament, development and strategic initiative investment for 2009-2012 amounted to £15.9million and £4.65million will be invested in 2013. Other IRB-funded competitions in that region include Pacific Nations Cup, FORU Oceania U19 Championship, FORU Oceania Sevens Championship and the Pacific Rugby Cup. In addition, there is also a AUS$2.4million Pacific in Union Partnership run in conjunction with ARU, IRB and the Australian government, which funds the project.