New Look IRB Pacific Rugby Cup to Launch Rugby World Cup Preparations
Rugby World Cup 2011 preparations for Fiji, Samoa and Tonga will begin in earnest in February with the start of a new-look IRB Pacific Rugby Cup.
The exciting format will see A sides from the three Unions take on the cream of Australia and New Zealand's up and coming talent as Super Rugby sides provide opposition for the first time.
The key development tournament kicks off on February 19 with three rounds of matches in Australia where the QAS Reds Academy, the Junior Waratahs and the Brumby Runners will face each of the Pacific Island teams.
Fiji Warriors, Samoa A and Tonga A then head to New Zealand for matches against a Crusaders Development XV, Chiefs Development XV and Hurricanes Development XV over three rounds beginning on March 4.
The tournament culminates with a Pacific Island Series where Fiji Warriors, Samoa A and Tonga A will play each other over three match days on March 19, 22 and 26.
"The IRB Pacific Rugby Cup was developed to bridge the gap between domestic and international Rugby for the best locally-based players in Fiji, Samoa and Tonga and has been hugely successful in exposing a new generation of Pacific Rugby players to the rigours of international Rugby," said IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset.
"This new format takes the PRC to a whole new level and will expose the best Pacific Island based players to some of the most advanced professional Rugby structures in the world. In a Rugby World Cup year, this level of exposure is invaluable and will test aspiring national representatives from Fiji, Samoa and Tonga against full-time professional Rugby players."
Nearly half of the Fiji squad that reached the quarter-finals of Rugby World Cup 2007 had graduated through the IRB Pacific Rugby Cup, while Samoa and Tonga's squads also contained PRC graduates.
Tonga head coach, Isitolo Maka said he is very enthusiastic about the new PRC format. “It’s fantastic. It gives us a competition comprising eight first class games where we can assess our “A” players against the Super 15 development teams. These additional games at this level are important in a RWC year as we have a greater opportunity to work with the players and observe first hand their performances over a longer time frame”.
"The new tournament format has been developed in close consultation with the Australia, New Zealand and Pacific Island Rugby Unions and in line with the IRB strategic investment programme in the Pacific Islands," said IRB Regional General Manager for Oceania William Glenwright.
"It will expose players and management staff of the Island Unions to the High Performance systems of Super Rugby teams, while also providing high quality games for those Super Rugby players not yet in the top squad. This level of exposure in a Rugby World Cup year is invaluable to current and aspiring national team players."
Fiji Warriors are the reigning champions and the only team to have successfully defended the title, having won in 2009 and 2010.
Andrea Wiggins, Communications Manager, +353 86 040 3950, email email@example.com