The 2019 Oceania Rugby Women’s Championship will kick off this year on November 18, with six teams in contention for the title at Fiji’s Churchill Park in Lautoka. The tournament which also offers a significant qualifying spot for the 2021 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, will see the most number of teams to ever compete including the Black Ferns Development XV’s and Australia A this year, joining Fiji, Samoa, Papua New Guinea and Tonga. Oceania Rugby General Manager Bruce Cook said that the inclusion of teams from Australia and New Zealand in this year’s format will not only benefit the two unions, but also the four core Oceania teams. “First it will give players who perhaps have not had many international minutes of competition a chance to gain valuable time in both a match and competition environment,” Cook said. “Secondly for other teams from the Oceania Region, it will arguably provide a higher standard of comeptition to these national teams which will definitely assist them with the development of skill sets playing against these teams,” he added. Fiji Rugby Union (FRU) Chief Executive Officer John O’Connor said that the FRU is looking forward to hosting the Oceania Rugby Women’s XV’s Championship again in Fiji. “We at Fiji Rugby believe in promoting our women’s rugby hence we took this opportunity with open hands,” O’Connor said. “Our women’s rugby teams in both the Sevens and XV’s sides have been doing well and I hope they can achieve something special this time around,” he added. New Zealand Rugby’s Head of Women’s Rugby Cate Sexton said the inclusion of a Black Ferns development side in the tournament was an exciting opportunity for emerging players to gain international experience. “We’re also keen to play our part in helping to grow and develop women’s rugby in Oceania and it would be fantastic to have four Oceania countries represented at the 2021 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand,” Sexton said. Rugby Australia’s Head of Women’s Rugby and Participation Jilly Collins said that Australia A is looking forward to the opportunity to play against other teams within the region. “With the next Women’s RWC being in New Zealand in 2021, it would be fantastic for as many Oceania represented as possible. Playing in tournaments like this should help improve and develop every team involved,” Collins said. Papua New Guinea Women’s XV’s Coach John Pangkatana said that this year’s tournament will be a catalyst for the increased interest in women’s rugby for the country. “It certainly raises the benchmark for us, and I see it as a positive challenge for us to rejig our preparation program and our in-country program to move with the change in a positive manner,” Pangkatana said. Samoa Rugby Union Women’s Development Officer Avii Faalupega said this year’s Championships will be a great opportunity for the Oceania teams to compete against some of the world’s best teams. “The tournament this year will set a higher quality standard of competition not only for Samoa, but also for Fiji, Tonga and Papua New Guinea” Faalupega said.Tonga Women's Rugby Union Vice Chair Fehoko Tu'ivai said that they are looking forward to this year’s tournament as playing New Zealand and Australia is great for the development for the Pacific teams. “As pre-qualified nations, their participation can only yield positive outcomes for our Pacific Island teams and for that we are grateful for,” Tu'ivai said.Oceania Rugby Competitions Manager Wayne Schuster said that there is an air of excitement with this year’s Women’s Championships as it is unprecedented for the annual senior Women’s XV’s tournament to be staged back to back. “As administrators, we were just taken aback last year at the sheer passion and enthusiasm shown by players and coaches throughout the Tournament,” Schuster said. “The unique Pasifika experiences shared and cherished among teams last year wasn’t just confined to the field itself, but flowed out to other aspects of the Tournament where the ladies were just so inspired and appreciative to be among each other, as proud ambassadors for their nations,” he added. With New Zealand and Australia now part of this competition, the Oceania Rugby Women’s Championship truly celebrates the dynamism of Women in this rugby loving region ” Schuster said. The tournament format will spread across four rounds, with the first round to commence on 18 November, with the fourth and final round concluding the tournament on Saturday 30 November.