IRB committed to Pumas 'daunting' step up - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

IRB committed to Pumas 'daunting' step up

Luke Phillips 02/12/2010 04:57:00 AM Comments (0)

Argentina face the daunting task of joining the top three rugby union teams in the world, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, in an expanded Tri-Nations from 2012.

But the sport's world governing body, the International Rugby Board (IRB), said it remained committed to the idea, urging the three nations who organise the Tri-Nations and Super 14 competitions through their SANZAR joint venture to show some patience if there are teething problems.

"They are in transition," Mark Egan, the IRB's head of development, admitted of Argentina.

"For any union to join a tournament where the top three teams in the world are playing is very daunting.

"We have been working with them. We have invested a lot of money in their domestic high performance programme."

That programme has seen Argentinian rugby officials develop regional high-performance centres for the first time.

And the Pumas 'A' team, the Jaguars, took part in the Vodacom Cup in South Africa.

"They had 12 fixtures last year and the players are beginning to come through," said Egan.

"They had two playing against Ireland last weekend."

Egan added: "It is going to be a medium-term process in getting these players through to professional rugby and it is going to be a big challenge but the Tri-Nations countries have opened their arms to it.

"I think there is a huge commitment there. The current arrangement is a four-year deal because it is based around the television contract.

"Yes (four years may not be enough)," he warned. "The IRB wants Argentina to stay in there. We don't own that tournament and the SANZAR partners have to look at that themselves.

"I firmly believe they are fully committed to making this work. We need to make this work. Everybody needs to make this work."

The IRB eased rules on player availability, with clubs now having to release players for the competition to be played from late August to early October each year.

The three nations that make up SANZAR have all said that Argentina would add a dynamic new element to what will become the Four Nations series.

And it added that it will try to provide more opportunities for Argentinian players to play in the Super rugby competition in the lead up to the series.

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