The IRB Nations Cup 2008 gets underway in Romania on Wednesday, 11 June with Russia, Georgia, Romania, Italy A and newcomers Uruguay looking to wrestle the title away from reigning champions Emerging South Africa.
The Tournament, which features triple headers on each of the three match days, will again be hosted at the Arcul de Triumf stadium in the capital Bucharest, where for the first time on Romanian soil international matches will be played under floodlights. Another first will be the round one fixture between Romania and Uruguay, which will mark the first Test match between the two countries.
"The IRB is delighted that the Nations Cup is returning to Bucharest," said IRB Tournament Director Beth Coalter. "Last year's Tournament was the first international Rugby competition to be staged in the country for almost 70 years and generated a great deal of interest and clearly highlighted the continued growth of Rugby in Romania."
"In addition to increased playing numbers and support for the Game, the development of Rugby in Romania can also be seen in the expansion of the Arcul de Triumf stadium to include additional seating and international standard floodlights. I am sure that the venue will prove to be a fitting and welcome host for a tournament which will provide nine high quality matches over three competition days," added Coalter.
For Romania the second running of the IRB Nations Cup in Bucharest provides the opportunity for Romanian Rugby to be showcased on a global scale, with a worldwide audience of millions watching via a host of global broadcasters.
"The decision by the IRB to grant the Romanian Federation the privilege to organise the IRB Nations Cup for the second consecutive year is a glowing tribute to the FFR's dedicated team of administrators and organizers, and also to the quality of the facilities at the Arcul de Triumf Stadium," said Romanian Federation President George Straton.
While all eyes will be firmly focused on the action on the field, the IRB Nations Cup also plays a considerable role in the ongoing development of each of the participating Unions, providing access to a competitive player development environment.
"The IRB Nations Cup is a key Tournament element of the IRB's Strategic Investment Programme aimed at raising global playing standards. It was designed to give the likes of Romania, Russia and Uruguay an opportunity to test themselves against a higher level of opposition than they would normally meet. It also provides an important pathway for Unions such as South Africa and Italy who see this competition as important in developing the next generation of Test players," added Coalter.
Italy A, runners up in the inaugural competition in 2006, and Russia get the Tournament under way at 4pm (local time) on Wednesady, before Emerging South Africa start their title defence against Georgia at 6pm. The final round one match sees the hosts take on Uruguay at 8pm.
The IRB will be providing round by round coverage of the IRB Nations Cup 2008 on its official website, www.irb.com/nationscup.
IRB Nations Cup schedule
(All local kick off times)
Match Day 1 - Wednesday, 11 June
Italy A v Russia (16:00)
Emerging South Africa v Georgia (18:00)
Uruguay v Romania (20:00)
Match Day 2 - Sunday, 15 June
Georgia v Uruguay (16:00)
Italy A v Emerging South Africa (18:00)
Russia v Romania (20:00)
Match Day 3 - Friday, 20 June
Russia v Uruguay (16:00)
Italy A v Georgia (18:00)
Emerging South Africa v Romania (20:00)