Samoa included in exciting times for international women's rugby

The most recent Manusina coach, Ramsey Tomokino, travelled to Dublin in February for a World Rugby conference on the international women’s rugby calendar and how it can be improved and implemented.

World Rugby have recognised that more growth is necessary in the women's 15s game around the world.

Tomokino said he had some really good, insightful discussions with representatives from World Rugby and other national unions.

For instance, he had networking meetings with Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Japan, who have a league that’s going to go professional from 2020.

He said there would possibly be opportunities for Samoan players to go to Japan and have an income for playing rugby, which is a rarity in the sport.

But further discussion is needed to determine what that would look like.

The main topic on the agenda at the February 21st meeting was how to implement two international women’s test windows; one in September-November and one around the May-July period.

Currently tests are organised on an ad hoc basis by the individual national unions, except for the Six Nations.

Tomokino said Samoa being invited to the talks, unlike Tonga and some other island nations, is a sign the Samoa Rugby Union's positive momentum is being recognised.

“What’s happened in the past is there’s been a [Manusina] program and it’s gone missing, with the players left in limbo.

"With the implementation of more test matches for Manusina, the likelihood we will see players choosing to play for Samoa as their first choice increases.

“We’ve got an opportunity to make some really good inroads.”

One of the ideas coming out of discussions was an annual Asia-Pacific Championship possibly starting in 2020, featuring Samoa, Fiji, Japan and Hong Kong.

There were indications that Samoa, Fiji and Hong Kong could play fixtures in Fiji this May as a prelude to the annual tournament, with Japan unable to join in until 2020.

Also discussed were Australia and New Zealand development sides joining the Oceania Rugby Women’s Championship held each November, and the prospect of Northern Hemisphere unions touring Oceania and vice versa.

Tomokino said there is unanimous support for the Rugby World Cup to increase from 12 to 16 teams for the 2025 tournament onwards, which would be augur well for Samoa, as the repechage will be a grueling pathway in its current form, one Samoa want to try and avoid by succeeding this year at November's Oceania qualifier.

In World Rugby’s latest proposal for the men’s Nations Championship competition, they have made “A commitment to invest in a Women’s Nations Championship to accelerate the global competitiveness of the game.”

Tomokino said from the February talks in Dublin, the women’s competition wouldn’t necessarily mirror the proposed men’s one, but Samoa would possibly be a part of the top division based on current world rankings.

He said there is just massive growth happening in the women’s game.

“It’s exciting going forward, I’d love to be part of it.”

Tomokino’s contract as Manusina coach ended after the 2018 Oceania Rugby Women’s Championship campaign in November, and the Samoa Rugby Union have recently begun the application process to appoint a coach, with Tomokino re-applying.

“Whatever capacity I can help going forward, I will support Manusina.”

"It's a contestable and open process, and I am sure some good coaches have applied.

He said whatever happens happens, and hopefully the programme continues on into the exciting times ahead.

Samoa finished second at the 2018 Oceania Rugby Women’s Championship.

“As a result of November and the resurrecting of the Manusina 15-a-side, we’ve got a number of girls that turned us down initially wanting to put their hand up to represent Samoa,” Tomokino said.

"This will create needed competition for positions and is good for the future of the women's game for Samoa."

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