Published: Wednesday January 23, 2013 MYT 12:07:00 PM
Pacific Cup gets North American flavour
WELLINGTON: The annual Pacific Nations Cup has been expanded to include the United States and Canada as part of a drive to boost the level of competition for second-tier rugby union nations.
The International Rugby Board said the tournament, also involving Japan and Pacific island nations, would give vital big-game experience to lower-ranked nations in the push to raise the competitiveness of the international game.
IRB chairman Bernard Lapasset said the new-look competition was a compelling prospect, adding: "This exciting enhancement to the IRB Pacific Nations Cup is good news for Japan, Canada, the USA and the Pacific islands."
"We now have in place an annual high-calibre competition that will deliver compelling matches, while also fulfilling the high-performance needs of our unions."
US and Canadian rugby chiefs welcomed the move. "The new-look PNC will provide the Eagles with consistent fixtures against some very competitive teams," said USA Rugby Chief Executive Nigel Melville.
Canada Rugby chief executive Graham Brown said it was a "fantastic opportunity for Canada to play quality matches to help us build our high performance programme".
Japan will host five of the 10 matches in the May 25-June 23 round-robin tournament, as the country gears up to host the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
"(It's) a wonderful opportunity for Japan and all participating unions to elevate their performances to a higher level in order that we can be more competitive at future Rugby World Cups," Japan coach Eddie Jones said.
Fixtures will also be played in Canada, Fiji and the United States.
Defending champions Samoa will sit out this year's tournament, making it a five-way competition between Fiji, Tonga, Japan, Canada and the United States.
Samoa, who scored an upset win over Wales in November and gave France a scare on the same tour, will play a tournament in South Africa also featuring the Springboks, Scotland and Italy. - AFP