The Oceania region qualification process for World Cup 2015 will kick off with the Oceania Cup in 2013, the International Rugby Board and Federation of Oceania Rugby Unions (FORU) announced Wednesday at the FORU AGM in Rarotonga, Cook Islands.
The announcement was made in the presence of the Webb Ellis Cup, won by FORU Member Union New Zealand at RWC 2011. It is the first time that the Game's ultimate prize has visited the Cook Islands.
All Full Member Unions of the IRB in the Oceania region will have an opportunity to compete for a direct qualification place at the game’s showcase event, which will take place in England and provides the financial platform for the development of the game across the IRB's 117 member unions.
The popular Oceania Cup, FORU’s regional championship for Development and Targeted Unions, will again be the first step on the road to England 2015. American Samoa, Cook Islands, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Tahiti and Vanuatu will battle it out at the 2013 Oceania Cup with the winner progressing to the next stage of qualification.
The Oceania Cup champion will then take on Fiji in a one-off match in 2014 with the winner gaining direct qualification to RWC 2015 as Oceania 1. Australia, New Zealand, Samoa and Tonga have already qualified automatically for RWC 2015 after finishing in the top three of their respective pools at RWC 2011 in New Zealand.
FORU President Lefau Harry Schuster said: "The Oceania Cup is a very important tournament for FORU and it is fitting that it is being used again to kick-off the Oceania regional qualification process for World Cup 2015.
"World Cup is one of the world’s most prestigious sporting events and we are delighted that all Pacific Island Member Unions will be able to fight it out at the Oceania Cup for the right to take on Fiji for a place at England 2015."
World Cup Limited Chairman Bernard Lapasset added: "The IRB invested over AU million in the Pacific Islands in the last World Cup cycle and we are committed to significant levels of investment within the next cycle in order that more teams in the region can push for World Cup qualification. The competitiveness of the Oceania Cup is testament to that investment and the shared vision of development and collaboration between IRB and FORU."
The tender process for the right to host 2013 Oceania Cup will commence in May 2012. The Oceania Cup is a round-robin tournament hosted by a single Host Union.
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