- Competition going from strength to strength
- Key development platform includes Super Rugby franchises
- IRB committed to NZ$7 million investment in Pacific Islands in 2012
The IRB Pacific Rugby Cup kicks off on February 24 when Fiji Warriors, Samoa A and Tonga A travel to Australia for the first round of matches against Super Rugby development opposition.
Funded by the IRB, the key development competition proved to be a hit in 2011 as the very best up and coming locally-based players from the Islands had the opportunity to pit themselves against the next generation of Super Rugby stars in Australia and New Zealand in a new-look tournament.
The successful three-leg format is retained with the first hosted in Australia, the second in New Zealand and the third to be held later in the year in the Pacific Islands.
The Australia leg comprises nine matches played from February 24 to March 5 between the Islanders and Australia based teams the Brumby Runners, the Junior Waratahs and Queensland A.
Holders Fiji Warriors, Samoa A and Tonga A then travel to New Zealand for the second round of nine matches from March 9-19, where they face, in a change from last year, all five of the New Zealand Super Rugby development teams the Crusader Knights, Chiefs Development, Hurricanes Development, Highlanders Development and Blues Development teams.
IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset said: “The IRB is committed to the development of Rugby throughout the Pacific Islands in order to increase competitiveness and is investing over NZ$7 million in direct financial assistance to the nations across four main areas: High Performance, development, competitions and administration. This is all possible because of the commercial revenues raised by Rugby World Cup.”
“That investment includes a commitment to ensure that the Pacific Islands have the appropriate competition models that meet their high performance needs. The IRB Pacific Rugby Cup has continually evolved to achieve just that and our thanks go to the ARU and NZRU for their support in providing high-level opposition in what promises to be a compelling competition.”
“This will be an exciting year for Pacific Island Rugby as Samoa and Fiji also prepare to host Scotland in June ahead of the IRB Pacific Nations Cup, followed by the final leg of the IRB Pacific Rugby Cup.”
IRB Regional General Manager for Oceania, William Glenwright added: “The High Performance investment is our most comprehensive and it has allowed us to establish full-time academies in Fiji, Tonga and most recently Samoa, who now have a state-of-the-art High Performance Centre. These academies provide a daily training environment for elite and potentially elite players, match officials and coaches to obtain scholarships and train in world-class facilities.”
“This infrastructure and support enables locally-based players to climb the development ladder and perform to a high standard in competitions like the IRB Pacific Rugby Cup, the IRB Pacific Nations Cup and the HSBC Sevens World Series.
The success of the new IRB Pacific Rugby Cup format, which was welcomed by the Island teams and supported by the Australia and New Zealand franchises, means once again we can provide high level competition to bridge the gap between domestic and international competition for the best up and coming players in the Islands.”
The tournament can only be won by Fiji Warriors, Samoa A or Tonga A as they are the core teams, with the title decided following the final series in the Pacific Islands.
NZRU General Manager Professional Rugby Neil Sorensen said: “We’re delighted to be able to host these matches with all five of our Super Rugby development squads. This tournament provides an excellent opportunity to showcase up and coming rugby talent around New Zealand and the Pacific.”