13 Nov 2015

Sport: More Pacific teams given chance to qualify for next RWC

11:30 am on 13 November 2015

Up to four Pacific rugby nations could feature at the next World Cup following the announcement of a revamped qualifying process.

Fiji, Tonga and Samoa missed out on the 12 automatic qualifying spots from the 2015 tournament.

Manu Samoa players thank the crowd after beating USA at the Rugby World Cup.

Samoa players following their win over the USA at the World Cup. Photo: AFP

Fiji prop Manasa Saulo (centre).

Fiji taking on Wales at the World Cup. Photo: Photosport

But the traditional rivals will contest a new Pacific Tri-Nations over the next two years, with the top two teams earning direct qualification to the 2019 World Cup in Japan.

All Black Kieran Read and Joseph Tuineau of Tonga jump for a line out during the 2015 Rugby World Cup Pool C match between New Zealand and Tonga.

Tonga taking on the All Blacks at the World Cup. Photo: Getty

The third-placed team will play a home and away play-off with the top team in the Rugby Europe Championship, excluding Georgia, with the overall winner also qualifying for the World Cup.

Additionally, the Oceania Cup winners will play the highest-ranked Asian Rugby Championship team for a place in the repechage tournament, from which the final World Cup berth will be found.

Papua New Guinea players celebrate winning the Oceania Cup rugby tournament.

Papua New Guinea are the current Oceania Cup rugby champions. Photo: Twitter / Oceania Rugby

Tournament Director for the American Samoa Rugby Union, Iiga Peseta Sa Mavaega, says the new qualifying path is a boost for developing nations in the Pacific.

"It's every nations dream to participate in a World Cup and for us, a nation that we're trying to develop rugby, we're certainly quite thankful for the opportunity again for us to compete in that level. I think our participation at the Oceania Cup this year really encourages us to look forward to some more tournaments for us to participate in and with this opportunity with the World Cup I think it's quite exciting to look forward to that opportunity".

Papua New Guinea are the current Oceania Cup champions, while Cook Islands, Solomon Islands and Tahiti have also featured in recent years.

All 20 World Cup teams will be determined by November 2018, and are made up of:

- the 12 automatic qualifiers from Rugby World Cup 2015: New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Argentina, Ireland, Scotland, France, Wales, Georgia, Japan, England and Italy.

- The highest-ranked team from the Rugby Europe Championship (excluding Georgia)

- The top two teams from a Pacific Tri-Nations championship

- The winner of a Europe/Oceania play-off between the third place team from the Pacific Tri-Nations and next-best team in the Rugby Europe Championship.

- The winner of a home and away playoff between Canada and USA.

- The loser of that will play home and away against the top-ranked South American team (excluding Argentina), with the winner qualifying for the World Cup.

- The winner of the Rugby Africa Championship.

- The winner of a final repechage tournament, featuring teams from Europe, the Americas, Africa and either Asia or Oceania.