THE Oceania Rugby Sevens Championships is expected to draw a large crowd next month as Fiji hosts the annual event for the next three years, 2017, 2018, 2019.
Laisenia Bale Tuitubou, Minister for Youth and Sports, with Oceania Rugby Women's director, Cathy Wong, rugby services manager Oceania, World Rugby, Bruce Cook and Fiji Rugby Union chief executive officer, John O'Connor confirmed the event's return and the Fijian Government's support at the Grand Pacific Hotel, Suva last month.
"We see this as building on the outstanding success of our rugby teams in the Olympic Games last year and supporting the bid by the Fiji Rugby Union to host a leg of the 7s series here on our doorstep," Tuitubou said.
"We hope that home ground advantage will help our teams out-perform all our visitors, including the defending Olympic women's rugby champions."
Following the success of the 2016 championship, the event will combine the men's and women's events.
The 2017 Championships will be held at the ANZ Stadium over two days from November 10 to 11.
It is expected to be the perfect lead to the start of the 2016-2017 men's and women's HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series that kick-off in Dubai in early December.
Wong noted that across the Pacific and in Fiji, rugby is a key way that people come together, gain status, and celebrate Pacific life adding Oceania Rugby is committed to bringing International events to the Pacific Islands," she said.
"With a record 21 teams in this year's competition we look forward to showcasing the gold standard that is rugby in Oceania to the rest of the world.
"I thank the Government of Fiji for its support and assistance which enables Oceania Rugby to use rugby's platform to raise awareness, build understanding, adjust negative social norms, and support innovative solutions to promote gender equality and rugby values including respect and solidarity."
O'Connor said the FRU was "again delighted to be working with Oceania Rugby on the Oceania Rugby Sevens Championship".
"It is great news that New Zealand will now be part of the tournament. We will now have Fiji, Samoa, New Zealand and Australia in the men's competition and likewise in the Women's competition which will provide a great opportunity for rugby supporters in Fiji to watch these teams." he said.
"I acknowledge and thank the Fiji Government for its support towards rugby in Fiji and we are so thankful that the Fiji Government has committed its support for the next three years. With FRU's announcement that it will be bidding for a leg of the HSBC World Sevens from 2020, the Oceania Rugby Sevens Championship will give our country a great opportunity to build our hosting credentials over the next three years. Our players will relish the chance to compete against world-class teams in front of a home crowd."
The men's event will see 13 teams from around the region vying to take the championship title from Fiji, including HSBC Series core teams Australia, Samoa and New Zealand.
The Women's event has eight teams confirmed from around the region with Papua New Guinea looking to continue the impressive work from the 2016 Championship after their invitational appearance at the Sydney 7s in February this year.
The men's championship will comprise thirteen (13) teams playing in four (4) pools.
Teams consist of Fiji, New Zealand, Australia, Samoa, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, Cook Islands, American Samoa, New Caledonia, Nauru, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Tuvalu.
The women's championship will comprise eight (8) teams playing in two (2) pools. Teams consist of New Zealand, Australia, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Cook Islands, Samoa, Tonga, Tahiti.