19 May 2017

Sport: Cook Islands to host Tahiti in Oceania Rugby Cup

12:09 pm on 19 May 2017

The Cook Islands will host the Oceania Cup rugby tournament in August, in a one-off clash against Tahiti in Rarotonga.

The winner of this year's tournament will progress to a two-match series against the winner of the Asia regional qualifying tournament.

The the winner of that series will compete in the 2019 Rugby World Cup repechage tournament, along with the third-ranked team in the Pacific Nations Cup between Fiji, Samoa and Tonga.

The Cook Islands won the Oceania Cup in 2013.

The Cook Islands won the Oceania Cup in 2013. Photo: Bruce Southwick/Zoomfiji

Cook Islands Rugby Union president Moana Moeka'a was excited about the prospect of the country hosting an international match in Rarotonga again.

"The game against Tahiti is only three months off but it will come around quickly," he said.

"We need to work hard to ensure the success of this game as a Rugby World Cup qualification event and an international match against our closest neighbours."

"It's been a long time between drinks. The last time we played Tahiti in Rarotonga was in 2001 and before that in 1985 when Cook Islands hosted the Mini South Pacific Games," Moeka'a said.

The RWC Qualifying Match between Fiji & Cook Islands, 2014.

The RWC Qualifying Match between Fiji & Cook Islands, 2014. Photo: Fiji Ministry of Information / Facebook

Papua New Guinea won the last Oceania Cup in 2015, which also featured American Samoa and Solomon Islands, but were a late withdrawal from this year's event.

Moana Moeka'a admitted it was easier playing a one-off game and said if the Cook Islands were not hosting the tournament they may have been forced to pull out too.

"People have got to realise that in Oceania there is a tyranny of distance and some teams that fly to some of the tournaments we hold around the Oceania region...a lot of teams have to catch two or three flights," he said.

"As opposed to places like Europe where you're travelling in a van and pass through two or three countries in the space of about six or seven hours so that's quite difficult.

"Teams find it difficult to find the money to travel and that's basically what happened this year, where initially only three countries put their hands up at the begining of this year and unfortunately PNG have had to withdraw."

Moana Moeka'a said 95 percent of funding for the Cook Islands Rugby Union comes from Rarotonga and the bulk of the team to play Tahiti will have to be local players due to the high cost of flying people in from overseas.