World Rugby to launch new-look Pacific Nations Cup

Featured image credit: World Rugby

World Rugby has unveiled a new brand and format for the Pacific Nations Cup, with the finals of the six-team tournament to alternate between Japan and USA.

From this year, the Pacific Nations Cup will feature Canada, Fiji, Japan, Samoa, Tonga and USA. Last year’s tournament was won by Fiji and also featured Japan, Samoa and Tonga.

Each team will be guaranteed a minimum of three Test matches and one home fixture, which World Rugby hopes will boost development, exposure and competitiveness.

Two regional pools of three have been created to minimise player travel during the pool phase, with Fiji, Samoa and Tonga making up Pool A and Canada, Japan and USA to contest Pool B. Tonga will host more home Pacific Nations Cup matches in the next four years than it has in all competitions over the past decade.

The tournament will take place from August 23 to September 21. The finals will take place in Japan for the first edition, with all six teams travelling to Tokyo to either play in the fifth-place play-off or the semi-finals between pool winners and pool runners-up on September 14-15.

The third-place play-off and final will be hosted in Osaka on September 21 to crown the Pacific Nations Cup champion.

World Rugby said the new-look Pacific Nations Cup will create rivalries such as those seen in the Six Nations and Rugby Championship. It is hoped the tournament will drive competitiveness ahead of an expanded men’s Rugby World Cup in Australia in 2027.

Simon Raiwalui, World Rugby’s high-performance pathways and player development manager, said: “We are incredibly proud and excited to launch the revamped Pacific Nations Cup this year with a vibrant brand and an optimised match schedule.

“The six teams taking part in the competition will benefit from long-term certainty around fixtures, allowing them to optimise their preparations and engage with fans and commercial partners. With so much talent in the Pacific Islands, Japan and the two North American teams, fans can expect a tough contest and a great spectacle epitomised with epic finals in Japan.”

In other news, World Rugby has announced the host countries for this year’s WXV, a women’s international competition that launched in 2023.

The competition will return in September and October with Canada, South Africa and Dubai hosting games. All three levels of the tournament will be played across three consecutive weekends, with the match schedule to be announced shortly.

Last year saw WXV 1 matches take place in New Zealand, while WXV 2 and WXV 3 matches were held in South Africa and Dubai, respectively. England, Scotland and Ireland emerged as winners of the respective tiers.

Canada will replace New Zealand as the WXV1 host country this year, with WXV 2 and WXV3 to return to South Africa and Dubai. The series will provide six qualification spots for next year’s World Cup, which will take place in England.