The Oceania Rugby Women’s Championship gets underway on 18 November with four teams – hosts Fiji, Samoa, Papua New Guinea and Tonga – vying for a place at Rugby World Cup 2021 in New Zealand.
Australia A and a New Zealand Black Ferns Development XV are also competing in the tournament that will be played over four rounds from 18-30 November at Churchill Park in Lautoka, Fiji.
The highest placed of the non-qualified teams will join the eight teams who have already confirmed their presence at Rugby World Cup 2021.
A top-seven finish at the last Rugby World Cup in Ireland two years ago guaranteed New Zealand, England, USA, France, Canada, Australia and Wales their place, while South Africa became the first regional qualifier back in August.
In April this year World Rugby announced details of a new qualification pathway for Rugby World Cup 2021 whereby non-qualified teams will compete in new and existing regional tournaments.
Regional tournaments will be hosted in Oceania, Europe, Asia, Africa and South America with the final opportunity for teams to qualify being through the new repechage tournament, which will be held in 2020.
The New Zealand Black Ferns Development XV are accompanied in Pool A at the Oceania Rugby Women’s Championship by Samoa and Tonga, while Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Australia A come together in Pool B.
Fiji are chasing a hat-trick of titles having won in 2016 and in 2018 when they defeated Samoa 43-12 on the final day.
For Tonga, last year’s tournament marked the first appearance of a women’s 15s side in international rugby since the Women’s Pacific Tri-Nations in 2006.
As well as doubling as a Rugby World Cup qualification tournament, the inclusion of the two invitational teams adds an extra layer of competition and the chance for New Zealand and Australia to test the depth of their talent pool.
Rugby World Cup 2021 will be held in the southern hemisphere for the first time when New Zealand host the premier tournament. The world’s best women’s teams will travel to Auckland and Whangarei on New Zealand’s North Island for the ninth edition of the competition.
In August this year World Rugby announced that its flagship 15s and sevens Rugby World Cup properties will no longer include gender in their titles, furthering its commitment to equality and brand consistency across its portfolio.
Where to watch: Matches will be streamed live on the Oceania Rugby Twitter page and broadcast live on Sky Sports New Zealand
Match schedule (all times local):
Australia v Tonga, 13:30
Black Ferns Development v Fiji, 16:00Friday 22 NovemberTonga v Papua New Guinea, 11:00
Australia v Black Ferns Development, 13:30
Samoa v Fiji, 16:00
Tuesday 26 November
Black Ferns Development v Papua New Guinea, 11:00
Australia v Samoa, 13:30
Tonga v Fiji, 16:00
Saturday 30 November
Pool A – 2nd highest ranked RWC non-qualified team v Pool B 2nd highest ranked RWC non-qualified team, 13:30
Pool A – Highest ranked RWC non-qualified team v Pool B highest ranked RWC non-qualified team, 16:00