The National, Tuesday 30th April 2013
By JOHN PANGKATANA
THERE is hope for South Pacific tier three nations to streamline into the International Rugby Board (IRB) development competition – the highly successful Pacific Rugby Cup.
Papua New Guinea Rugby Football Union (PNGRFU) general manager Simon Kerr said this was mooted by member countries of the Federation of Oceania Rugby Union (FORU) during a meeting in Fiji recently.
Kerr announced this during the Club Pukpuk luncheon where former Australian Wallaby prop Andrew Blades was the guest speaker at the Gateway Hotel in Port Moresby on Friday.
Kerr said the move was noted by IRB chief executive officer Brett Gosper, who attended the meeting.
“The IRB CEO supported the motion and indicated that he would raise the motion to that regard from our region at the next IRB meeting,” Kerr said.
He said this was a good sign for the future they now had a potential realistic pathway for the PNGRFU to plan ahead for.
“There was an overall general consensus from the member countries that it was time for an opening to be given for tier three countries to progress to the next level,” Kerr said.
He said this was something Papua New Guinea had been crying for for many years.
“PNG has done its time as Oceania Cup champions on several occasions and it was time to move to a higher level,” he said.
“For PNG to progress further we must make the grade of those A teams or development sides from Fiji, Samoa and Tonga and play them on a regular basis.”
He said if the motion was carried at the IRB level future winners of future Oceania Cups would have that grand opportunity.
The Oceania Cup is a regional championship for development and targeted unions.
The PNG Pukpuks, who won the Oceania Cup in 2009 and 2011, are in the box seat with regular top contender Cook Islands.
However with the stakes a lot higher there is likely to be stiffer competition from Niue and American Samoa joining the equation for the first time.
This year’s Oceania Cup will kick-start the regional qualifying process for the 2015 Rugby World Cup. The winner will play Fiji in 2014 for a direct entry.
Other tier three nations include Tahiti, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.
These countries are all preparing to come to Port Moresby to play in this year’s Oceania Cup slated for July 1-14.