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IRB moves toward integrated calendar

For Immediate Release
March 12, 2010

Integrated Test Calendar Top Priority for Tier 2 Unions

DUBLIN, Ireland – A move towards an integrated competition calendar for Tier 2 Unions could soon become a reality after a meeting between the International Rugby Board and key stakeholders agreed to work towards a schedule that will further enable Unions to bridge the gap to Tier 1 status.

Representatives from Canada, Fiji, Georgia, Japan, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Samoa, Tonga and USA were invited to participate in the meeting in Los Angeles to share with the IRB their vision for growth and development over the next decade and their competition program requirements.

“The historic first meeting between the Unions was both constructive and extremely positive. A range of headline issues were discussed and each Union contributed fully to a process that will further strengthen the close collaborative relationship between the IRB and Tier 2 Unions,” said IRB Chief Executive Mike Miller.
“The IRB is committed to increasing global competitiveness and the performance of Tier 2 teams at Rugby World Cup 2007 highlights the incredible progress that has been made since the launch of the global strategic investment program in 2005.”

“The Unions fully endorsed the program and the suite of IRB Strategic tournaments as providing an essential platform for the continued growth and competitiveness of Rugby across Tier 2 nations.”
Such competitiveness was enhanced by the provision of additional fixtures for Tier 2 Unions during the November window in 2009. The initiative, which saw the likes of Tonga, Georgia and Portugal all playing matches, created history by ensuring that the top 20 ranked teams were all in action for the first time.
“There was consensus that the expanded November calendar has proven to be extremely successful for Tier 2 Unions in meeting strategic high performance objectives,” added Miller.

“However, in order to meet long-term development goals, the group identified a clear need for an integrated schedule that combines IRB Strategic tournaments within a framework that also delivers regular matches against Tier 2 opposition within the June and November windows, including matches against Tier 1 opposition within the Rugby World Cup cycle,” said Miller.

“The issue of an integrated playing calendar is a complex one as it includes the requirements of clubs, provinces and national Unions, player welfare and geographical time zone considerations, but all parties are committed to the development of a schedule that recognizes the collective needs of the Unions, delivering a structured framework that stimulates further growth over the next decade.”

The IRB will now collaborate with all stakeholders to develop an integrated schedule that recognizes the collective needs of the Unions and delivers a structured framework that promotes growth over the next decade.