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Pacific nations welcome first women's World Cup qualifying tournament

Pacific nations have welcomed the announcement of the first women's World Cup qualifying tournament for France in 2025, with Fiji, Samoa and Tonga among 20 teams vying for eight spots.  

International Rugby League has released details of the qualifying process for the 2025 Men’s, Women’s, Wheelchair and Youth IRL World Cups to be staged concurrently in France, which includes a women's Pacific qualifying tournament.

The eight women's teams playing in the World Cup in England at the end of the season automatically qualify for France 2025, along with the men's quarter-finalists.

The remaining eight places will be decided by qualifying tournaments, with each region - Asia-Pacific, Europe, Americas and Middle East Africa - allocated a number of berths for the 2025 World Cup.

There are six spots for Pacific women's teams and with Australia, Cook Islands, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea taking part in this year's World Cup, Fiji, Samoa and Tonga will play off for the remaining two places.

Match Highlights: Fiji v Orchids

"Just to be able to have that opportunity to play for a World Cup is massive," Fiji Bulikula coach Adrian Vowles said.

“It’s what we have been wanting, and now we know there is a pathway and it is in our own hands. 

“The girls just want that opportunity to qualify to go to France in 2025 so this is a real boost."

Fiji Bulikula beat Papua New Guinea Orchids 28-0 and lost 22-14 to Australia Jillaroos in 2019 but have not played since, while the Kiwi Ferns hosted Fetu Samoa in 2020 and Mate Ma'a Tonga last month.

Match Highlights: Kiwi Ferns v Mate Ma’a Tonga Women

“It wasn’t just about playing that Test, we have a plan to qualify for France in 2025 and go up in the [IRL] rankings," Mate Ma'a Tonga coach Milton Dymock said.

“This announcement is like a light at the end of the tunnel because a lot of girls can now see that when they are playing international football there is a World Cup at the end of it, and they are vying for a spot in that tournament.

“It gives a lot of girls aspirations to play for their heritage and it is something they look forward to. They now have a goal to play in a World Cup and that is the biggest thing you want do when you are playing footy."

Jillaroos stars Tiana Penitani and Simaima Taufa have spoken about wanting to help Tonga qualify for the World Cup, while there are a number of other NRLW players keen to represent their heritage in France.

Match Highlights: Kiwi Ferns v Fetu Samoa

In what will be the biggest qualifying event in IRL World Cup history, a total of 46 national teams will be involved in qualifying competitions for the men’s and women’s tournaments.

These include 20 women’s national teams who will contest international rugby league’s first women’s qualifying competition for the eight remaining positions at RLWC2025.

Russia is currently suspended from international rugby league. A decision will be made in December on whether Russia can participate in the men’s and women’s European qualifying tournaments next year.

There are 16 available berths in each of the four tournaments – Men's, Women’s Wheelchair and Youth (under 19s).

France, as the host nation, automatically qualifies for all four World Cups.

IRL chair Troy Grant, France consul general in Sydney, Anne Boillon, and Trent Robinson, Sydney Roosters coach and FFRXIII director of rugby, with the World Cup on ANZAC Day.
IRL chair Troy Grant, France consul general in Sydney, Anne Boillon, and Trent Robinson, Sydney Roosters coach and FFRXIII director of rugby, with the World Cup on ANZAC Day. ©Gregg Porteous/NRL Photos

Men's World Cup

All eight quarter-finalists at RLWC2021 automatically qualify for RLWC2025.

The regional berth allocation, confirmed in March, is:

  • Asia-Pacific (5-7 berths): Australia, Cook Islands, Fiji, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga
  • Europe (6-8 berths): England, France, Germany, GreeceIreland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Russia, Scotland, Serbia, Spain, Ukraine and Wales
  • Americas (2 berths): Brazil, Canada, Chile, Jamaica, USA
  • Middle East Africa (1-2 berths): Cameroon, Ghana, Lebanon, Morocco, Nigeria, South Africa

Women's World Cup

All eight teams competing at RLWC2021 automatically qualify (subject to satisfying IRL development guidelines that are aimed at growing the women’s game in their country).

The regional berth allocation, confirmed in March, is:

  • Asia-Pacific (6 berths): Australia*, Cook Islands*, Fiji, New Zealand*, Papua New Guinea*, Samoa, Tonga
  • Europe (6 berths): England*, France*, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Malta, Russia, Serbia, Turkey, Wales
  • Americas (3 berths): Brazil*, Canada*, Chile, Jamaica, USA
  • Middle East-Africa (1 berth): Cameroon, Ghana, Lebanon, Morocco, Nigeria, South Africa
    * automatic qualification

Wheelchair World Cup

  • An expression of interest and invitation process will be used to determine the 16 finalists
  • Those 16 finalists will be selected by the end of 2024
  • No determination has been made on regional berth allocation

Youth World Cup

  • The qualification framework will be determined in 2023

IRL chair Troy Grant said: “When the inaugural Rugby League World Cup was hosted by France in 1954 it comprised of just four teams, but when the World Cup returns to France in 2025 there will be four tournaments – Men, Women, Wheelchair and Youth – and each will comprise of 16 teams.

“France 2025 will be the biggest and boldest Rugby League World Cup and the impact can already be seen, with a record number of nations and teams involved in a detailed and meaningful qualifying process for World Cup berths.

“The growth of Women’s rugby league since the 2017 World Cup has been phenomenal and for the first time there will be qualifying tournaments for places at France 2025, while the number of nations wanting to participate in the Wheelchair World Cup is exciting and encouraging.

“The Youth World Cup presents an opportunity for nations to identify and harness emerging talent who may go on to form the nucleus of their senior international teams in future years and it is great to hear that some nations are beginning preparations in this area.

“The RLWC2025 qualifying process will be the most keenly contested in the game’s history and highlights the enormous growth and opportunities for international rugby league.”

Acknowledgement of Country

Queensland Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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