Sunday, December 21, 2008

2008 A Year of Rugby; Part 3


Travel! For the lower nations on this table this has been a major factor in their international rugby arrangements for 2008, especially at the senior level.

Oceania is governed by FORU, The Federation of Oceania Rugby Unions. There are fourteen rugby unions affiliated to this federation. The minor unions are divided into two zones, East and West. These zones will be involved in the 2011 Rugby World Cup qualifying process in 2009, the winner playing Samoa for a place in the Cup Finals.

Each zone holds a round robin tournament at one venue with the winners squaring off for a single winner-takes-all title. There is no promotion-relegation into the Pacific Nations Cup, which involves Tonga, Samoa and Fiji.

In 2008 the Eastern Zone tournament was to be held in Rarotonga, whilst the West was to be in Noumea. It was expected that American Samoa would enter for the first time. But it all turned out to be a bit of a fizzer.

Firstly, Papua and New Guinea and Solomon Islands pulled out of the Western Zone, to be held in Noumea, at the last minute due to travel difficulties. PNG had warmed up with a 5-41 loss to Fiji 'A' in the curtain raiser to the Fiji v Samoa game at Lautoka, June 7. Wallis and Futuna also withdrew. That just left Vanuatu and New Caledonia, with the home side winning 29-20.

The Eastern Zone fared no better. Tahiti pulled out as did American Samoa leaving just the Cook Islands and Niue to play in Rarotonga. The Cook's decided only to play home-based players and lost 7-18, a mistake I'm sure they will not make in next years World Cup qualifiers.

The final in Noumea saw Niue easily win 27-5 to take the Oceania Cup for 2008.

Neither Tahiti nor Solomon Islands played international rugby in 2008 so they both drop off the table. The lower rankings look like this.

9th - New Caledonia
8th-Papua New Guinea
7th - Cook Islands

Samoa, Tonga and Fiji played in the Pacific Nations Cup, along with Japan, Australia 'A' and New Zealand Maori.

The Fijians were unable to improve on their 5th placing in 2007. Traditionally the leading Pacific island nation over the years they have slipped against their close neighbours. An early win over Samoa was countered by an away loss to Tonga in the last fixture of the tournament, sealing Fiji's 5th ranking.

The Tongans slipped from 3rd in 2007, losing to Samoa early in the tournament but upsetting the Fijians at home to prevent a slip further to 5th place. Generally the Tongans were unable to maintain their magnificent efforts at the 2007 Rugby World Cup.

Although losing to Fiji early in the tournament, the Samoans came back strongly with a youthful side to defeat Tonga at the right time and secure 3rd place. The gap from 3rd to 2nd to the top nations was emphasised with the Samoans' 14-101 loss to New Zealand in New Plymouth

New Zealand and Australia again hold the top two positions. It is difficult to see any other Oceania nations coming anywhere near these two.

For the fourth year in a row the Aussies play second fiddle to the Kiwis who had a magnificent season, except for a slight wobble in the middle of the Tri Nations. New Zealand and Australia played four times for the Bledisloe Cup. New Zealand dropped the first encounter in Sydney, but then took out the next three, including an historic meeting in Hong Kong, to keep their top position in Oceania.

1st-New Zealand.

Part 4 will see a review of North American rugby

For a complete list of all 2008 GWC Rugby Rankings, go to

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