The Raro trio join the Cook Islands Sevens teams


Rima Browne, left, Brian Akava and Nicol Tiaore are the Rarotonga-based players who will play for the Cook Islands in this weekend’s Oceania 7s tournament. The three are pictured at Rarotonga International Airport before departing for Auckland on Sunday. SUPPLIED/22111412

Three Rarotonga-based players will join the Cook Islands 7 men’s and women’s squads for this weekend’s Oceania Rugby Sevens 2022 challenge in Brisbane, Australia.

Rima Browne, Nicol Tiaore and Brian Akava left Rarotonga on Sunday for the two-day tournament starting Friday (Cook Islands time).

They will be joined by the rest of the squad made up of players from Auckland and Brisbane.

Cook Islands Rugby New Zealand Inc. has been tasked with fielding the men’s and women’s national teams, on behalf of the Cook Islands Rugby Union (CIRU), at this year’s regional tournament.

CIRU President Simiona Teiotu said earlier that due to the national body’s “financial statements”, CIRU NZ will be participating in the regional tournament.

Yesterday Teiotu confirmed that Oceania Rugby are helping fund the three Rarotonga-based players’ airfares from Auckland to Brisbane and back.

He said former All Blacks Michael Jones and Matson Shipping came on board to support the players’ journey from Rarotonga to Auckland.

Julieanne Westrupp of Tupapa Maraerenga Rugby Club – Browne’s home club – said: “Rima Browne will be in attendance thanks to financial support from the community, namely Ina, Ron, Vaine and Bank of the Cook Islands, Malcolm, Jessie and Cook Islands General Transport and a few other anonymous sponsors. Moana Minerals also helped sponsor Browne’s trip.

Westrupp also thanked Andrew Iroa and Evolution Sports for helping Browne with his training.

“Rima (Browne) was one of the unsuccessful candidates for the women’s Rugby League World Cup campaign, but she is delighted to be able to use all the intensive training she has done for this 7s campaign.

“She represented the country in the game of touch rugby at the last Pacific Games and has played a number of domestic games both union and league and hails from the Tupapa Panthers Club.

“Browne is looking forward to gaining more experience and, in turn, looking forward to returning home to share this with other future women (players) from the Cook Islands.”

Tiaore, who played for the Raro 7s-winning Arorangi Bears, was also named the most valuable player in the women’s competition.

The men’s national team will be coached by Koiatu Koiatu from Brisbane and captained by Opura Samuel from Auckland. Maia Samuela from Auckland will lead the Cook Islands women’s team which will be coached by Tau Korea Moeke also from Auckland.

The top two men’s teams and the top women’s teams from the Oceania Rugby Sevens Challenge 2022 will qualify for the World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series 2023. The winner of the World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series 2023 will earn base status on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2024 .

The men’s event will feature Cook Islands, Kiribati, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Vanuatu and Australia A. Tonga and Papua New Guinea hope to return to the World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series after both competing this year. Kiribati will be the unknown of its first participation in an international event.

On the women’s side of the tournament, Cook Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu will all try to prevent Papua New Guinea from returning to the World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series for a second year. The event is the first outing for any team alongside Papua New Guinea since the 2019 Oceania Rugby Sevens Championship.

A total of 42 matches (24 men’s and 18 women’s) will be played over two days of competition.

Cook Islands teams

Men – Repoama Morris-Ponga (Auckland), Junior Kiria (Auckland), Junior Taia (Auckland), Habasaloma Tamarua (Auckland), Kaiya Mareva Tumaki (Auckland), Heimona Potoru (Auckland), King Paulo (Auckland), Kobe Tararo ( Brisbane), Yvahn Allsworth (Brisbane), Brian Akava (Rarotonga), William Ravatudeis (Perth), Zacharius Patai (Auckland), Adam Lewis John Vardey, Simon John Kopu. Coach – Opura Samuel (Auckland), Coach – Koiatu Koiatu (Brisbane), Physio – Roimata Herman (Auckland), Assistant Coach – Terepai Samuel (Brisbane), Assistant Coach – Adam Vardey (Auckland).

Women – Rima Talia Browne (Rarotonga), Nicol Tiaore (Rarotonga), Manea Poa (Auckland), Paulina Morris-Ponga (Auckland), Tamara Ruaporo (Auckland), Kaden Rota-Moeke (Auckland), Marissa Alexis Elenor Moira Iroa (Auckland) ), Myracle Monga (Auckland), Mary Tuaana (Brisbane), Beniamina Koiatu (Auckland), Alekermay Tuaana (Brisbane), Gazelle Tiaremanea Tumu Makara, Moehani Pipiniata Samuel, Alekana Dean, Meika Dean, Ratu Chantay Kiria. Coach – Maia Samuela (Auckland), Coach – Tau Korea Moeke (Auckland), Physio – Preston Matete (Auckland), Assistant Coach – Andrew Grant (Auckland), Assistant Coach – Donald Mill (Brisbane).

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