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The Oceania Rugby Cup tournament is heading to Polynesia in 2017 with the Cook Islands Rugby Union confirmed today as the Host Union of the biennial event. The Cup is Oceania Rugby’s leading XVs tournament for Performance and Development Unions and began in 2007.
Bruce Cook, Rugby Services Manager Oceania from World Rugby said, "The significance of this tournament to the Oceania Region cannot be understated in regards to the valuable competition and opportunities that it provides to the Development and Performance Unions within the region".
Further adding to the importance and prestige of the Cup in 2017 is the confirmation that the winner of this year’s tournament will progress to the latter stages of the Oceania qualifying system for the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan. The winner of the 2017 Oceania Cup will progress to a two-match series against Asia 1 (winner of the Asia regional RWC qualifying system) with the winner of the series then earning a spot in the Rugby World Cup 2019 repechage tournament.
This is the first time the Cook Islands have hosted a Rugby World Cup qualifying event since 2008 against Niue and the 2017 tournament will see Cook Islands play Tahiti in a one-off Test on Friday 4 August 2017. This date coincides with the Constitution Day public holiday in the Cook Islands, following a week of festivities, which Oceania Rugby and the Cook Islands Rugby Union hope will allow as many fans as possible to attend the match.
Cook Islands Rugby Union president Moana Moeka’a is excited about the prospect of the country hosting an international match in Rarotonga again, especially against neighbours Tahiti in a Rugby World Cup qualifying game. "The game against Tahiti is only three months off but it will come around quickly. We need to work hard to ensure the success of this game as a RWC qualification event and an international match against our closest neighbours.”
“It’s been a long time between drinks. The last time we played Tahiti in Rarotonga was in 2001 and before that in 1985 when Cook Islands hosted the Mini South Pacific Games," Moeka’a said.
The Cooks made its first appearance on the regional stage at the 1971 South Pacific Games in Pape’ete where it won a silver medal and despite Tahiti not having beaten Cooks in an international match since their first ‘official’ encounter in 1985, Moeka’a says "things have certainly changed in the last four years with Tahiti bringing in players to bolster its national team".
Moeka’a further added "Oceania Rugby – with the support of World Rugby -- has been working hard in this region in terms of providing assistance and competition to developing nations should they get to the next level of qualification. We have seen this at the recent Oceania Championships on the Gold Coast where Fiji and Samoa joined New Zealand and Australia as preparation for their respective World Rugby Under 20 tournaments later this month.
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