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IRB announces more fixtures for Tier Two and Three nations

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irb.com     21 Sep 2012     Getty Images

The matches, which feature 12 IRB Strategic Initiative Unions are in addition to the Tier One v Tier Two fixtures within the international 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 opposition.

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.

IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset said: "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.

"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 said: "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.”

Gareth Rees, Rugby Canada’s National Men’s Programme Manager, said: “It is vital for our programme that our team plays matches at this level and we look forward to renewing the rivalry with Samoa, Russia, and NZ Maori.”

“All three matches are big challenges and well above the standard of play we can create domestically. It is equally important for our players to be immersed in the steep rugby culture of the UK and the atmosphere around all the November internationals. We are grateful to the IRB, Welsh Rugby Union and the Rugby Football Union for hosting us.”

As part of the Strategic Investment (SI) international competitions programme, the IRB has coordinated the implementation of a comprehensive November match schedule for priority Tier Two and Tier Three Unions.

In addition, a series of fixtures has been co-ordinated which will see the top-ranked Tier Two Unions in particular get the opportunity to play each other during the November window. This provides important cross-regional benchmarks with regard to the progress of the respective Unions’ high performance programmes as well as giving the Unions vital competition opportunities in an important year for RWC 2015 preparation.

The total SI programme annual budget is GBP10 million. Of that, GBP2.7 million goes into funding competitions, such as Pacific Rugby Cup, Pacific Nations Cup, Americas Rugby Championship, Nations Cup and the November test programme. Funding is also used for direct high performance grants to 13 Unions.

IRB is providing significant financial support to the Unions through funding for flights and accommodation subsidies. Key highlights of the schedule are as follows:

-All Tier Two Unions have a minimum of three fixtures
-Samoa, Tonga and Fiji each have two Tier 1 fixtures in addition to a third fixture against a Tier Two Union. Fiji also has a mid-week fixture against Gloucester
-With the valuable assistance of the WRU and the local council in Colwyn Bay, a series of Tier Two v Tier Two fixtures have been arranged in the North Wales town. This is the first time that the IRB has arranged such fixtures in a neutral location and it has allowed us to give opportunities for the top Tier 2 Unions to play each other in a cost-effective way as part of a European tour programme
-Georgia will host Japan and Fiji for the first time in its history
-Romania will host USA for the first time in its history
-Portugal will tour South America for a two-test series against Uruguay and Chile
-With the support of the FFR, Japan will have a two-match tour playing a Basque selection in San Sebastian and the French Barbarians in Le Havre
-With the support of the RFU, Canada will play the Maori All Blacks in the UK
-As Namibia does not wish to tour Europe in November discussions are underway with the Union regarding potential fixture opportunities in Namibia instead.