The World Rugby Pacific Nations Cup will return for the first time since 2019 when the tournament gets under way in Fiji at the beginning of July.

Hosts Fiji will attempt to win their sixth Pacific Nations Cup crown next month but will face a stern test from Samoa, Tonga and a strong Australia A squad.

With just over a fortnight to go until the Pacific Nations Cup 2022 kicks off in Suva, we give you the lowdown on what should be a thrilling tournament.

What is the Pacific Nations Cup?

The Pacific Nations Cup is a regional men’s international tournament that will return for the first time since 2019 when the 15th edition takes place in July.

Fiji and Tonga have competed in all 14 editions of the tournament to date, while Samoa have made 13 appearances, missing only the 2013 Pacific Nations Cup.

The inaugural tournament was held in 2006, when the three Pacific Island nations were joined by Japan and the Junior All Blacks.

That first Pacific Nations Cup was won by the team from New Zealand, and the Junior All Blacks subsequently added to that triumph the following year and then again in 2009.

In 2008, the New Zealand Māori appeared in place of the Junior All Blacks and took the title.

Australia A competed in the tournament in 2007 and 2008, finishing second on both occasions and the team will return to the Pacific Nations Cup for a third time next month.

Japan appeared in the first 10 editions of the Pacific Nations Cup, as well as the most recent tournament in 2019, while Canada and the USA have each competed in the event four times. Georgia took part in the 2018 edition, finishing third.

Who usually wins it?

Fiji are the most successful team in the competition’s history having claimed five Pacific Nations Cup titles, including a run of four in a row between 2015-18.

The Junior All Blacks claimed the crown on each of the three occasions the team competed in the tournament, in 2006, 2007 and 2009.

Japan and Samoa each have three titles to their name. The countries shared the 2014 Pacific Nations Cup having finished top of their respective conferences.

The New Zealand Māori are the other team to have won the Pacific Nations Cup, emerging victorious in 2008, the only year they competed in it.

Tonga and Australia A will be aiming to win the tournament for the first time this year, and both have a previous best finish of second.

When and where will the matches be played in 2022?

Fiji will host the Pacific Nations Cup 2022, with matches being played across three match-days at ANZ Stadium in Suva and Churchill Park in Lautoka.

The round-robin tournament will kick off at 13:00 local time (GMT+12) on Saturday, 2 July when Australia A take on Samoa. Hosts Fiji will then take to the field against Tonga at 15:30.

Seven days later, the action will switch to Churchill Park as Samoa and Tonga get the second round under way at 12:00 local time, followed by Fiji against Australia A at 15:30.

The final two matches of the tournament will also be played in Lautoka as Tonga take on Australia A at 12:00 local time (GMT+12) on Saturday, 16 July. The curtain will come down on the Pacific Nations Cup 2022 when they hosts line up against Samoa at 15:30

Pacific Nations Cup 2022 fixtures (all kick-off times GMT+12)

2 July

Australia A v Samoa, ANZ Stadium, 13:00
Fiji v Tonga, ANZ Stadium, 15:30

9 July

Samoa v Tonga, Churchill Park, 12:00
Fiji v Australia A, Churchill Park, 15:30

16 July

Tonga v Australia A, Churchill Park, 12:00
Fiji v Samoa, Churchill Park, 15:30

How will teams score points?

Teams will score four competition points for a win and two for a draw. Bonus points are also on offer for teams that score four or more tries in a match or lose by seven points or fewer.

The team with the most competition points at the end of the three match-days will be crowned champions.

Does the Pacific Nations Cup have any significance for Rugby World Cup 2023?

Not directly but Tonga will use the tournament as preparation for their Asia/Pacific 1 play-off match on 23 July.

One week after the conclusion of the Pacific Nations Cup 2022, the ‘Ikale Tahi are scheduled to play the winner of the Asia Rugby Championship.

Whoever triumphs in that match will take their place in Pool B in France, alongside South Africa, Ireland, Scotland and Europe 2.

The tournament is also useful preparation for both Fiji and Samoa as they prepare for RWC 2023, while the players representing Australia A will be keen to stake a claim for a place in Dave Rennie’s squad for the showpiece tournament.

Is there anything else we should know about it?

The Pacific Nations Cup will also boast an impressive line-up of experienced match officials, with Wayne Barnes, Jaco Peyper and Nic Berry among those set to take charge of fixtures in Fiji.

A full list of appointments can be found here.