IRB Pacific 5 Nations format and schedule announced     01 May 2006    

The competition will bring together Test sides from Tier 2 Unions Fiji, Samoa, Tonga and Japan, as well as the Junior All Blacks.

“The Pacific 5 Nations is an IRB tournament that is funded as part of the US $50 million, three-year, global strategic investment programme that was launched last August,” International Rugby Board Head of Rugby Services Mark Egan said.

“The aim of the global strategic investment programme is to increase the competitiveness of the world Game and Rugby World Cup through a number of high performance, infrastructure and tournament initiatives. The IRB Pacific 5 Nations is a tournament that will provide more certainty for Fiji, Japan, Samoa and Tonga in terms of regular high level Test match rugby, while also providing a high level of competition for the Junior All Blacks.

“The Pacific Island Nations have long been renowned as a major rugby nursery and the provision of a clear pathway for players and coaches alike is a significant step towards nurturing and developing a whole new level of locally-based players on the Islands.

“This exciting new Tournament follows the conclusion of the inaugural, cross-border IRB Pacific Rugby Cup that is contested by representative teams from Fiji, Samoa and Tonga and completes the pathway from club or provincial level through to the full Test arena,” Egan added.

This potential has been underlined by the performance of the Pacific Island Unions in the recent Under 19 World Championship in Dubai, where Fiji defeated Tonga in the Division B final to join Samoa in Division A next year.

Japan has 125,000 registered players and a professional club competition of 12 teams. The additional matches provided by the Pacific 5 Nations will be invaluable in providing a higher volume of matches for its elite national team players. In addition to the Tournament Japan has RWC 2007 qualifying matches to play this year plus Tests against Georgia and Italy.

“The implementation of a high-intensity, structured, international Test tournament is an exciting development for rugby in the Pacific region,” Pacific Islands Advisory Chairman Bob Tuckey said.

“mportantly, the IRB Pacific 5 Nations provides these Unions with an expanded Test match programme and greater exposure at the elite end of the Game.

“Following the highly-competitive nature of the inaugural IRB Pacific Rugby Cup, the IRB Pacific 5 Nations, is sure to capture the imagination of the wider rugby community within the Islands and around the world.”

Round One of the IRB Pacific 5 Nations kicks off when Fiji host the Junior All Blacks in Suva and Japan take on Tonga on June 3 in Fukuoka, while Samoa have a bye. Four further rounds will then follow before the inaugural IRB Pacific 5 Nations champions are crowned.

Pacific 5 Nations schedule

Round 1
Saturday 3 June: Fiji v Junior All Blacks, Post Fiji Stadium, Suva, 3pm
Sunday 4 June: Japan v Tonga, Honjo Stadium, Fukuoka, 3pm

Round 2
Friday 9 June: Samoa v Junior All Blacks, North Harbour, 8pm
Saturday 10 June: Tonga v Fiji, Central Cost Stadium, Gosford, NSW, Time TBC

Round 3
Saturday 17 June: Samoa v Japan, Yarrows Stadium, New Plymouth, 2pm
Junior All Blacks v Tonga, Yarrows Stadium, New Plymouth, 4.30pm

Round 4
Saturday 24 June: Junior All Blacks v Japan, Carrisbrooke, Dunedin, 2.30pm
Fiji v Samoa, Post Fiji Stadium, Suva, 3pm

Round 5
Saturday 1 July: Tonga v Samoa, Central Coast Stadium, Gosford, NSW, Time TBC
Japan v Fiji, Nagai Stadium, Osaka, 7pm