Fiji and Papua New Guinea will meet in the inaugural Oceania Rugby Women’s Championship in Suva on 5 November with the winner to keep their Women’s Rugby World Cup 2017 dreams alive.

The absence of a regional women’s 15s pathway and the need to determine an Oceania team for the Women’s Rugby World Cup 2017 qualification process has led to the introduction of this event.

The 2016 tournament will be contested between host union Fiji and Papua New Guinea, with Australia and New Zealand having already qualified for WRWC 2017 in Ireland by their top-seven ranking from the last edition in 2014.

“Oceania Rugby aims to make the Women’s Championship a biennial qualification tournament to reflect the continued growth in participation at every level of women’s rugby within the region,” said Oceania Rugby General Manager Cheryl McCormack.

“This will see more nations involved in the tournament in subsequent years. With 40 per cent of the region’s Get Into Rugby participants in 2016 being girls – and on the back of the success of the Australian, New Zealand and Fijian women’s teams at the Rio Olympic Games – women’s rugby in Oceania is enjoying unprecedented popularity and growth.”

Papua New Guinea are expected to draw on eligible players from Australia to bolster their quest to participate in the Women’s Rugby World Cup. However, Fiji will be difficult to beat at home following the noticeable development of women’s rugby in the country, highlighted by the growing stature of the Fijiana sevens team.

The winner of this one-off match at ANZ Stadium in the Fijian capital will take their place alongside two Asian teams in the final qualifying event for WRWC 2017 in Hong Kong in December. The top two sides from this tournament will complete the 12-team line-up the World Cup, which runs from 9-26 August.