Rugby union in the Cook Islands is a popular sport. It is a tier three rugby playing nation. They began playing international rugby in 1971 and have yet to make the Rugby World Cup. They are currently rated 55th, with 2,258 registered players and 21 clubs.
As with many Pacific Island nations, rugby has been the main sport since the early 20th century. Visiting ships from Australia, New Zealand, the UK and Japan, have kept the game going. However, Cook Island rugby has mostly taken the form of an informal folk sport until recently. Also, the Cook Islands have suffered another problem common to many other surrounding nations such as Western Samoa; with potential players opting to play for bigger nations. Both brothers Graeme and Steve Bachop were eligible to play for the Cook Islands but chose to play for their country of birth New Zealand. The Australian rugby league captain, Mal Meninga also started off in Cook Island rugby union. In the 1990s, Anthony Turua played a major part in formalising the situation, and getting the national side up to standard. Although they did not manage to get into the Rugby World Cup, the Cook Islands have done well in what is arguably the toughest rugby region, and managed to beat Papua New Guinea. As with many of the of Pacific Nations with a lot of talent, and not a lot of population, the Cook Islands have tended to do best at rugby sevens.
The Cook Islands national rugby union team began playing international rugby union in 1971. Thus far, the Cook Islands have not made an appearance at any of the World Cups. They are traditionally considered as the sixth best team from Oceania, even they still are very far from the level of Fiji, Samoa and Tonga. They can also supply players for the Pacific Islanders team.