Australia eyes Pacific Nations rugby - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Australia eyes Pacific Nations rugby

By Darren Walton 03/05/2006 05:54:36 PM Comments (0)

Australia is hoping to join the IRB Pacific Five Nations tournament in 2007 after opting out of the inaugural series in order to finalise a new national competition.

The International Rugby Board (IRB) announced the format and schedule for the first Pacific Five Nations series on Wednesday, with the first matches involving Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, Japan and the Junior All Blacks getting underway next month.

Australia turned down an invitation last year to play in the tournament but will still host a series of matches.

ARU boss Gary Flowers defended the decision for Australia not be involved this year.

"At one stage we were very keen to get in place a tournament with the Pacific islands and Japan and our four provinces and, in fact, convened a whole one-day workshop which the IRB attended," Flowers said.

"The IRB said they weren't prepared to support that, so we've always had an appetite for this (type of competition).

"However, we've spent a lot of time and effort in planning a national competition involving Australian teams and we will have a three-day workshop for that soon.

"The IRB wanted us, at a certain time, to commit (to the Pacific Five competition) and we said until we get a certain idea about this (national) competition we don't want to make that commitment.

"Having said that, we believe that we are now in a position to commit to this competition in 2007 onwards and we believe the IRB will favourably consider that and, as from 2007, we will be part of the competition."

The ARU is still nutting out the format and length of the new national competition, but it will involve non-Wallabies, start after next year's Super 14 tournament and possibly run from July to October.

"If the Wallabies have 33 players, there's another 100 (Super 14) players plus the next best so it would be a semi-professional competition," Flowers said.

Flowers is keen for Australia A to enter the 2007 Pacific Five Nations tournament and said the development team wasn't missing out by not playing in this year's competition.

"Australia A is playing Fiji twice this year and matches at the end of the year, so it's not as if Australia A doesn't have a program and isn't part of the development pathway," he said.

"We just didn't want to compromise the work we were doing on the national competition (by entering this year)."

The IRB hopes the introduction of the Pacific Five Nations tournament will ultimately raise the playing standard of second-tier nations Fiji, Japan, Samoa and Tonga - who have long been regarded as a major rugby nursery but lacking the financial support needed to advance - as well as provide a high level of competition for the Junior All Blacks.

The tournament will kick off with Tonga playing Fiji at Gosford's Central Cost Stadium on June 10.

Brought to you by AAP AAP © 2024 AAP

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