PNG 2 qualify for first RWC
15 November, 2017, 12:00 am
Two more qualifiers have been confirmed for Rugby World Cup Sevens 2018 in San Francisco with Papua New Guinea’s men and women booking their tickets through the Oceania Rugby Sevens Championships in Suva, Fiji.
They will join the men’s and women’s teams of New Zealand, Australia and Fiji as well as Samoa’s men at the showpiece tournament, which takes place at AT&T Park in San Francisco, USA, from 20-22 July next year.
One further men’s qualifier from Oceania will be confirmed following the Pacific Mini Games in Vanuatu in December.
Papua New Guinea’s women, lead by Joanne Lagona, wrote their names into the history books as their nation’s first Rugby World Cup Sevens qualifiers after day one at ANZ Stadium in Suva, guaranteeing their position as the highest-ranked team behind the already qualified New Zealand, Australia and Fiji by joining the trio in the semi-finals.
They were joined by their male counterparts a day later after they overwhelmed the Cook Islands 32-0 in the fifth place play-off to finish behind champions Fiji, New Zealand, Australia – who they had narrowly lost 22-21 to in the quarter-finals – and Samoa.
RWC Sevens qualification was just one prize, though, for the Papua New Guinea men and women as they will now play as the invitational team in the Oceania rounds of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2018, both at the HSBC Sydney Sevens on 26-28 January and the men also at the inaugural HSBC NZ Sevens in Hamilton a week later. They will also both play in the series qualifiers in Hong Kong in April from which one team will secure core team status on the 2019 series. The Cook Islands will also represent Oceania in the men’s qualifier.
“It is probably the first of its kind for sport of its kind in Papua New Guinea in general, I don’t think any sports team, whether it be cricket or rugby league, have fomally qualified for a World Cup. It is a big achievement for us, especially coming through the hardships we have faced, and it is a testament to the boys’ and girls’ hard work and love of the game,” said men’s coach Douglas Guise.
Papua New Guinea Rugby Football Union representative Sailosi Druma added: “I think it is really exciting times and it will be a big celebration for rugby supporters back home. It is a privilege and honour for a country like Papua New Guinea to qualify for a World Cup.”
Heavy rain and lightning disrupted play on day two in the Fijian capital with play suspended for several hours at one stage and then other matches abandoned on player welfare grounds.