The country’s rugby union governing body Lakapi Samoa has thrown its support behind World Rugby’s new annual 15s competition involving six nations including Samoa.
A number of decisions at the recent World Rugby’s Council meeting in Paris, France which saw the unveiling of a new international men’s calendar to comprise a tournament made up of 24 teams and starting in 2030, has already been widely criticised for overlooking tier 2 nations.
However, in a statement released on Friday, Lakapi Samoa said it endorses the new Pacific Nations Cup, which was also launched after the World Rugby’s Council meeting in France. It said the new format involving Canada, Fiji, Japan, Samoa, Tonga and the USA to be launched in 2024 has a number of benefits for the code in the country.
These include increasing the number of competitive annual test matches; providing long-term certainty and a sustainable future from 2024; and certainty in delivering and optimizing commercial/performance returns; as well as combined opportunity with the proposed two-division global competition to be finalised.
Lakapi Samoa Chief Executive Officer, Faleomavaega Vincent Fepuleai, zeroed in on international fixtures that will now become available for Manu Samoa courtesy of this new format.
“These are positive significant changes that will benefit our Manu Samoa for more annual international fixtures,” said Faleomavaega. “The certainty from World Rugby to greater commercial opportunities to gain and sustain our small Unions into the future is progressive and exciting.
“Combined with the proposed new two-division global competition model from 2026 and cross-over fixtures, these changes will ensure a greater number of matches in between and heading into Rugby World Cups.
“The global calendar with the two-division competition is anticipated in 2026 and will provide an opportunity for us to access on merit.”
Manu Samoa Head Coach, Vaovasamanaia Seilala Mapusua, said he was excited and emphasised how high-quality fixtures can promote growth.
“I am excited at the potential of the expanded Pacific Nations Cup as it provides important high-quality fixture certainty to grow and develop Manu Samoa,” said the Head Coach. “This means we will have more test matches and more time together as a team which we have lacked in the past.
“This new environment will enable us to keep growing and developing as we look towards Rugby World Cup 2027 in Australia.”
World Rugby Chief Executive Officer, Alan Gilpin, said the revised Pacific competition points to the growth of the code in the region.
“We are on the side of growth and this tournament is a key pillar in a wider strategy. Combined with the proposed new two-division global competition model from 2026 and cross-over fixtures against high-performance unions, performance unions could be playing an unprecedented number of annual fixtures from 2026.”
The rebranded Pacific Nations Cup, which will be played in the southern hemisphere release window of August and September, will feature two pools of three teams – a North America/Japan pool and a Pacific Islands pool with each union hosting matches.
A finals series involving all teams will take place each year, where the annual champions will be confirmed. Japan and USA will host the finals series in alternate years, starting with Japan in 2024.
Backed by significant World Rugby investment and union support, each union will play a minimum of three additional matches a year via the new competition, delivering important certainty for each union in order to optimise commercial and performance returns, including ticket and sponsorship revenue and domestic broadcast.
SOURCE: SAMOA OBSERVER/PACNEWS