More Tests for minnows
The IRB has announced a Series that will see an extensive programme of competitive games for Tier Two and Three nations during November 2012.
The matches, which feature twelve IRB Strategic Investment Unions are in addition to the Tier One v Tier Two fixtures within the tours and test schedule approved by the IRB Council in 2010.
Following Rugby World Cup 2011 in New Zealand, many of the teams are now going through a period of rebuilding with several new players and coaches coming into the squads as they look towards RWC 2015 in England.
Russia, USA, Samoa, Canada, Tonga, Fiji, Romania, Japan, Uruguay, Portugal, Georgia and Chile will all be in action with the three Pacific Island teams facing up against top level teams.
The announcement further underlines the IRB's commitment to an expanded annual calendar for Tier Two teams and builds on similar schedules in place during previous seasons. One of the highlights of this busy programme of international fixtures will take place in Colwyn Bay, Wales, with a mini tournament being played over two match days with some mouth-watering fixtures arranged, including Russia v USA and Samoa v Canada.
Other highlights include England v Fiji in London, Wales v Samoa in Cardiff, Canada v Maori All Blacks in Oxford, France v Samoa in Paris, Scotland v Tonga in Aberdeen and Uruguay v Portugal in Montevideo.
"This is an exciting development for the global Game. The IRB is committed to facilitating an annual international competition schedule for our Tier Two Unions and these matches will be crucial to ensuring that there is increased competitiveness on the global stage and at Rugby World Cup 2015," said IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset.
"There will be an unprecedented number of international fixtures across Europe in November, which will give sports fans a taste of what to expect in 2015 when England hosts the world's top 20 nations for Rugby World Cup."
IRB Head of Development and Performance Mark Egan added: "The November fixtures will play a significant role in the continued development of those Unions that have been identified for high performance support as part of our annual GBP10million Strategic Investment Programme. With an eye on Rugby World Cup 2015, coaches will be looking to assess their players in a competitive test match environment and the IRB will have the opportunity to benchmark the progress of the top ranked Tier Two Unions against both each other and in the case of the Pacific Island Unions, against Tier One opposition."
"The November Tier Two test match programme compliments our portfolio of stand-alone strategic investment tournaments in June such as the Pacific Nations Cup, Nations Cup and the Americas Rugby Championship, which takes place in Canada in October. We are particularly excited about the double-header IRB International Rugby Series matches which will take place in Colwyn Bay, North Wales, on November 9 and 17 and the historic first-time visits of Japan and Fiji to Georgia."
With thanks to the IRB