The sixth participant at the World Rugby U20 Trophy 2024 will be known in the coming weeks after details of the Oceania Rugby U20s Challenge were announced.
Played over three match-days from 26 February to 6 March, the Oceania Rugby U20s Challenge will feature age-grade teams from Fiji, Samoa and Tonga and also Super Rugby Pacific outfit Moana Pasifika, who have accepted an invitation to complete the line-up and host the event.
The new competition will serve as a qualifier for Samoa and Tonga for the World Rugby U20 Trophy 2024, to be played in Scotland from 2-17 July. The winner between the two Pacific rivals in round two, on 2 March, will advance as Oceania’s representative to this key event.
Fiji are not competing for a place at the U20 Trophy as they are already playing a level above in 2024, in Pool C of the World Rugby U20 Championship in South Africa.
“This will be a massive boost for the future of rugby. This is about creating a genuine pathway and providing the stage for our up-and-coming Pasifika talent to be seen,” said Leasiosiofaasisina Kevin Seni, Pathways Manager of Moana Pasifika.
“Oceania Rugby and Moana Pasifika extend a warm invitation to rugby fans from around the world to witness this historic tournament and support their favourite teams. With a coveted spot at the 2024 World Rugby U20 Trophy up for grabs, the stakes are high, and the action promises to be nothing short of extraordinary.”
📣 Introducing the new Oceania Rugby U20s Challenge as U20s teams from 🇫🇯, 🇼🇸 & 🇹🇴 battle for the first time together in Tamaki Makaurau - Auckland. Don’t miss this historic tournament! 🌟— Oceania Rugby (@oceaniarugby) February 8, 2024
Read more: ⇨ https://t.co/ll8qv5nePc#OceaniaRugby #ORU20sChallenge #MoanaPasifika pic.twitter.com/7nEdVMOYEb
Moana Pasifika’s involvement has come about due to a strategic partnership aimed at launching a new age-grade competition designed to reinvigorate U20 pathway programmes across the Pacific region.
The Oceania Rugby U20s Challenge will serve as a viable competition pathway opportunity for age-grade players across the Pacific to advance into the elite professional environment of Moana Pasifika and Fijian Drua.
"This unique blend of athleticism, creativity and cultural pride promises to showcase our region's top rugby talent in a traditional hub for Pasifika communities, the city of Auckland,” said Frank Puletua, General Manager of Oceania Rugby.
“Oceania Rugby is proud to support the development and growth of our young athletes, and we look forward to seeing more young men and women graduate into elite competition through the U20s programme."
Five teams have already booked their place at the World Rugby U20 Trophy 2024, including hosts Scotland, Japan – the team relegated from the World Rugby U20 Championship 2023 – and regional qualifiers Uruguay (South America), the Netherlands (Europe) and Hong Kong China (Asia).
Samoa are two-time winners of the World Rugby U20 Trophy (2011 and 2016), while Tonga, who finished second in 2014, would want to go one step further in Scotland.
After the Oceania qualifier is decided, two spots will be left to fill with details of the Africa qualification tournament, the U20 Barthés Trophy, and the North America qualifier between USA and Canada to be confirmed soon.