Gold Coast to host 2023 Oceania Rugby Women’s Championship

Photo: Oceania Rugby

Four nations will battle for supremacy in the region’s pinnacle premier women’s rugby competition, the Oceania Rugby Women’s Championship.

The Gold Coast City Council and Bond University, with support from PacificAus Sports, are proud to host for the first time at Bond University, Gold Coast, from 26 May to 04 June.

The 2023 event holds greater importance than ever before, as teams are contending for qualification in the brand-new World Rugby WXV global women’s XVs competition in Europe in October this year. 

The top two teams from the competition between the Fijiana XV (Fiji), Cassowaries (Papua New Guinea), Manusina XV (Samoa) and Fuifuilupe (Tonga) will qualify. The first-place team will qualify in WXV-Tier 2 and the second placed team for WXV-Tier 3.

The event will also serve as a platform for Pacific players to be selected for the Oceania Women’s Combine in August this year, in which the selectors will identify potential players to join Australia’s Super W teams on a PacificAus Sports’ scholarship.

The Australian government, through PacificAus Sports agreed to support the Oceania Rugby Women’s Championships for the first time. Through supporting this prominent regional competition, PacificAus Sports, through its partnership with Oceania Rugby and Rugby AU, are helping close the gap in the elite women’s rugby pathway. PacificAus Sports is also supporting new domestic women’s rugby events in Pacific Island countries that help feed these national teams, and the Oceania Women’s Combine and Super W scholarships for Pacific players that are selected from it.  

“It is exciting times for women’s rugby in Oceania and we have witnessed the sport grow from strength to strength in recent years. What was traditionally a male sport is now evolved and it is encouraging to see that our Pacific cultures are embracing women and girls in rugby,” said Oceania Rugby President, Richard Sapias. 

The introduction of World Rugby WXV has increased the stakes and caliber of the Oceania event and is generating interest in the women’s game worldwide. Teams and Unions are investing more in the women’s game to prepare for the Oceania competition as they aspire to qualify for WXV. Teams who successfully qualify for WXV, will collectively participate in 8-10 tests each year, as opposed to only 1-3 tests per year that women’s national teams have been afforded in the past.

The four teams will play three rounds each and points would be awarded to determine the top two finishers.

Defending champion Fijiana, is expected to put on a strong defense of their title. However, runner up in the 2022 Oceania Rugby Women’s Championship, Manusina, will be out to avenge their 24-31 loss to the Fijiana side in Auckland last year. The two sides are scheduled to meet again in the third round of this year’s competition.

Tonga, after nearly toppling Manusina in the opening round, and a boisterous first half effort to push Fijiana last year in their second-round thriller, could prove to be the Championship’s dark horse in this year’s edition. With the team assembling only days before last year’s Championship, more team preparation this year could have the Fuifuilupe surprise their more fancied Pacific neighbors and traditional rugby rivals.

PNG will be eagerly looking to take their efforts up a notch this year after a winless campaign in last year’s Championship. With qualification for the WXV at stake, PNG will be looking to regain their form of past in pushing their Pacific brethren to secure a spot in the WXV.

Oceania Rugby General Manager, Frank Puletua spoke to the significance of the WXV for Women’s Rugby in the region: “The opportunity for our regional teams to go on to compete in World Rugby’s WXV from the Oceania Championship is a game changer for women’s rugby in Oceania. We will see more of our teams, especially from the Pacific, exposed to more International Rugby on an annual basis which will only lift their standards and competitiveness. 

“Oceania Rugby is grateful for the support of Gold Coast Council, Bond University and PacificAus Sports in bringing the Oceania region’s premier women’s XVs competition to the Gold Coast, Queensland,” said Puletua. Referee Ella Goldsmith, from Australia, and Lavenia Racaca, (Fiji) will be taking charge of the matches.