2 Dec 2020

Samoan rugby growing but still needs help from New Zealand and Australia

10:27 am on 2 December 2020

The Samoa women's rugby coach is delighted with the news that the World Cup will expand to sixteen teams from 2025, but says they still need help from their 'big sisters' in the Pacific to develop their game.

Samoa celebrates taking another step closer to RWC 2021

Samoa celebrates taking another step closer to RWC 2021 Photo: RNZ Pacific / Talei Anderson

World Rugby's decision to increase the number of teams from twelve follows increasing calls for the event to be expanded, with women and girls now accounting for 28 percent of the global playing population.

Since 2006 there have been 12 teams split into three pools, including next year's tournament in New Zealand..... from 2025 quarter-finals will be included.

Samoa has played in three tournaments, the last was in 2014.

Samoa like a number of other nations had hoped the expanded tournament would have been introduced in time for next year's tournament in New Zealand, however coach Ramsey Tomokino is excited by the decision which he says is very positive for the region.

"Because our chances of qualification increase then the number of players making themselves available will increase also because a lot of our girls who keep holding onto the dream of wanting to be a Black Fern or a Wallaroo will realise that if I do have an aspiration to get to the Rugby World Cup I can do that through Samoa."

"So from our point of view going to 16 teams is fantastic and that would give us an awesome opportunity to make sure that we can get to World Cups in the future."

Tomokino says Samoa is also working hard to develop the women's game.

"I think we're only going to get better with the investment that the Samoa Union is putting into our women's programme."

While Covid-19 put paid to the rugby programme this year, Tomokino says there is the opportunity there for games and World Rugby had intended to introduce two international windows each year for the women's game.

He hopes there will also be a Oceania competition involving New Zealand and Australia.

Ramsey Tomokino, Samoa women's rugby coach.

Ramsey Tomokino Photo: PHOTOSPORT

"The international test windows are absolutely essential for us"

Samoa's most capped player ever played 15 Tests over a 12 year period, while current captain Masuisui Pauaraisa earned her 10th test cap in 2 years.

"So you can see now we're going to have girls that are building continuity for the future, building up test caps and obviously the more we do that, the better we're going to become."

New Zealand and Australia dominate World Cup participation from Oceania, but both countries have also indicated their desire to help develop the game in the Pacific.

Tomokino says more games against the big two in the Pacific would mean so much for his players.

"We have to start knocking on the door of playing New Zealand and Australia so that our region is strong, so that if Covid is to remain a factor moving forward then we need to be able to play in our region."

"People may worry that we'll get steamrolled by the Black Ferns, but we've all got to start somewhere, it wasn't that long ago that Japan (men's team) was getting dusted by every team by big scores but now they're the ones knocking some teams over."

"We'll keep asking the question (of playing New Zealand and Australia), as they say the squeaky wheel gets the oil."

Samoa fan.


Tomokino says even without the contracts that New Zealand can offer, they can still attract plenty of players.

"There are girls that played for us this year that had said no to us for the last couple of years because they were chasing the dream of a Black Ferns' jersey."

He says they'd still support a young Samoan player if they were keen on trying out for the Black Ferns, "but there are also plenty of players out there that you know aren't quite there and when they get into our team and our culture, they love it and they have no regrets in their decision."

"I'd rather have players that are 100 percent committed to us."

Tomokino says the domestic Farah Palmer Cup has been the vehicle for players growing their story and what it means to play for Samoa.

Samoa still has a chance of playing in next year's World Cup in New Zealand after beating Tonga 40-0 in Auckland last month to book their place in the Final Qualifying Tournament.

However that tournament which contains teams from Europe, Asia, Africa and South America, remains in doubt because of Covid.

It is scheduled to be held in Europe in the New Year, but if the pandemic forces its cancellation then Samoa is likely to miss out on a place at the World Cup finals because of their low world ranking.