5 Nov 2016

Sport: PNG hoping to be competitive in women's rugby debut v Fiji

9:54 am on 5 November 2016

Papua New Guinea have claimed underdog status for today's Oceania Rugby Women's Championship clash against Fiji in Suva.

It will be the first 15-a-side match for PNG, while Fijiana 15s last played a test match in 2006.

The Palais coach John Larry has called up six Australian-based players to complement the local contingent and said they intend to play the game at pace.

"It's going to be quick rucks and we've good numbers out wide, we have speed out wide," Larry said.

"I want to move their big Fijians around and then they attack the space. Our main areas is to finish good sets - as long as we recycle the ball back that's the main gameplan we want, to go forward."

Larry said Fiji have more experience at international level but they will give it their all.

"We want to see where we finish and then we can work from that to the next level...I was telling the girls no look forward to Asia, this is the final and we know the final whistle will tell us where we go so the girls are looking forward for this first match."

Fiji finished eight at the Rio Olympics.

Fijiana sevens players are unavailable for the inaugral championship match Photo: World Rugby

Meanwhile the Fiji women's coach Seremaia Bai has been unable to select any of the Fijiana sevens players for today's game, because they're preparing for next weekend's Oceania Sevens Championship.

He said Fiji's first women's test match in ten years is a big opportunity.

"For these girls to make it to the World Cup it's a big achievement so for us this is another process of getting there," Bai said.

"The girls know it's very important for them and it's very important for women's rugby in Fiji so we are taking this game very seriously because one of our goals is to qualify for the Rugby World Cup next year."

The team is also supported by UN Women which has partnered up with the Fijiana 15s to support women in sport.

UN Women is backing the Fijiana 15s Rugby team to help tackle gender inequality in sport.

UN Women is backing the Fijiana 15s Rugby team to help tackle gender inequality in sport. Photo: UN Women/Davidson

UN Women's multi country representative Aleta Miller said while some headway has been made in tackling gender inequality there is still a long way to go.

"Women and girls are often given fewer opportunities in sport, less investment and media coverage and there are huge pay gaps at the professional level," she said.

"But, we are moving in the right direction and this is why we are backing the Fijianas 15s and the exceptional work being done by the Fiji Rugby Union to use rugby as an avenue to address gender equality in Fiji."

Team captain Lailanie Burnes said women can sometimes face discrimination from the community for playing rugby.

"Women have been playing 15s since 1999 and they have overcome some hurdles to get where we are today and we are proud of what all Fijiana players have achieved for women in the sport, and with the support of UN Women we can do more."

UN Women said sport encourages women to become healthier, stronger and more confident as well as learning leadship and team skills which can be translated into other areas of life.

The winner of the match in Suva will advance to next month's final Asia/Oceania qualifier event in Hong Kong with the top two sides completing the 12-team line-up at next year's World Cup in Ireland.