27 Nov 2019

Sport: Tonga women's rugby team welcome World Cup lifeline

10:53 am on 27 November 2019

The Tonga women's rugby team are welcoming their World Cup lifeline, after being withdrawn from the Oceania Championship after the team was quarantined for measles.

The decision to remove the kingdom from the tournament was made after they were forced into quarantine for 18 days, with the team scheduled to be relieved of isolation next week.

Tonga's opening match against Australia A was cancelled and declared a draw, with Papua New Guinea and Fiji winning their other scheduled matches by default.

A member of the Tonga women's rugby team was reported to have suspected symptoms of measles.

The Tonga women's team following their arrival in Fiji. Photo: Oceania Rugby

World Rugby announced a revised World Cup qualification process at the weekend, with the kingdom to play Papua New Guinea in the new year for the right to face the loser of Saturday's Oceania qualifying final between Fiji and Samoa.

The second placed team will advance to a final World Cup repechage tournament next year.

"Given the very unfortunate circumstances with Tonga being withdrawn from the tournament, World Rugby has granted a reprieve in a sense that Tonga will have another opportunity," said Oceania Rugby competitions manager Wayne Schuster.

"Therefore the repechage position will be contested again in 2020 by the runner-up of the match [between Fiji and Samoa] and the third placed [team], which is Papua New Guinea, and of course Tonga, so that's great news for Tonga."

Oceania Rugby Competitions Manager Wayne Schuster.

Oceania Rugby Competitions Manager Wayne Schuster. Photo: Screenshot/Oceania Rugby

Vice Chair of the Tonga Women's Rugby Union, Fehoka Tuivai, said team spirits were still down but it was good to share some more positive news with the players who were still in isolation.

"They obviously were sad with the decision [to withdraw] but at the same time they are happy that they've been given another opportunity for the qualification so they think that they will prepare more for that opportunity," she said.

Despite the set-back, Tuivai said the team had still been keeping a close eye on other countries competing in the Oceania competition.

"The have the opportunity to watch it on local TV and also they keep training while they're there in Fiji. They have a lot of space there at the hotel to do their normal training routine," she said.

New Zealand win Oceania title

New Zealand romped to their maiden Oceania Rugby Women's Championship title following a landslide 131-0 victory over Papua New Guinea yesterday.

The Black Ferns Development team ran in 21 unanswered tries in Lautoka and did not concede a point across their three pool games.

The Black Ferns Development team celebrate winning the 2019 Oceania Rugby Women's Championship.

The Black Ferns Development team celebrate winning the 2019 Oceania Rugby Women's Championship. Photo: Oceania Rugby

Head coach Wayne Maxwell said the Oceania Championship had been a great platform to develop new players and put them in an environment where they were tested.

"It's been very helpful to have some good quality games, the score must not have reflected that today, but I know that both teams put their best on the park," he said.

"The Farah Palmer Cup back home is a strong competition in New Zealand but this tournament takes it to another level to actually see who is willing to shift up, so the players are open minded about they are needed to do."

PNG were no match for New Zealand/

PNG were no match for New Zealand/ Photo: Oceania Rugby

Australia A defeated Samoa 27-5 in the later game to finish in third place behind hosts and two-time champions Fiji, with Samoa, PNG and Tonga rounding out the finals standings.

Schuster said Pacific Island nations had welcomed the chance to test themselves against teams from New Zealand and Australia over the last two weeks.

"It essentially adds another dimension to the performance preparations for these teams and will build their performance and gauge where they are, their standards for further years to come," he said.

"So, we're looking forward to Australia and New Zealand committing to our annual program and certainly the Pacific will be better for it."

Samoa proved competitive against Australia A.

Samoa proved competitive against Australia A. Photo: Oceania Rugby

Papua New Guinea will play one final match against a Fiji B team on Saturday before returning home.

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