The International Rugby Board has revealed an exciting line-up for the IRB Nations Cup 2009 in Bucharest, Romania.
The key international tournament, which provides targeted strategic investment Unions with access to an expanded Test calendar, will be played over three match days from June 12-21 and will feature Scotland A and France A for the first time alongside competition regulars Uruguay, Russia, Italy A and hosts Romania.
"We are delighted to be welcoming Scotland A and France A to the IRB Nations Cup for the first time. The addition of two quality teams to the programme will serve to further heighten the global interest in what is now a major international tournament on the international Rugby calendar," said IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset.
"The addition of these two teams will provide Romania, Russia and Uruguay with the high level of opposition required to benchmark their high performance programme development and assess the advances that they have made in competitiveness on the world stage."
Underwritten by the commercial success of the Rugby World Cup and the IRB's unprecedented £48 million global Strategic Investment Programme, the IRB Nations Cup was introduced in 2006 to provide much needed additional Test match level games for targeted Unions and played a significant preparation role for Romania, Georgia and Namibia ahead of RWC 2007 in France.
Last year's tournament was won by Emerging South Africa, but with the champions not participating due to the British and Irish Lions tour to South Africa, the 2009 edition looks set to be the most open to date.
"A key element of our Strategic Investment Programme is to provide targeted Unions such as Romania, Russia and Uruguay with an expanded international match programme for their elite players. The IRB Nations Cup provides the ideal platform to provide these teams with high quality opposition as well as matches against other Performance Unions from different Regions," said IRB Head of Development and Performance Mark Egan.
"For Scotland, France and Italy the tournament provides the opportunity to develop a wider pool of elite player talent and the IRB is committed to supporting their A team programmes as part of our global High Performance Strategy."
"Romania, Russia and Uruguay are all still in the hunt for Rugby World Cup 2011 qualification in their respective regions, so it will be interesting to see how they perform in an elite tournament environment. The Nations Cup provides the IRB with an opportunity to evaluate our investment in these Unions and assess where each are positioned within the four-year Rugby World Cup cycle," added Egan.
The tournament kicks off on Friday, June 12 with Scotland A versus Russia, Italy A versus France A and Uruguay against hosts Romania. All matches will be played at the stadionul National Arcul de Triumf in Bucharest.
Match Day 1 - Friday, June 12
Scotland A v Russia
Italy A v France A
Uruguay v Romania
Match Day 2 - Tuesday, June 16
Scotland A v Uruguay
Italy A v Russia
France A v Romania
Match Day 3 - Sunday, June 21
Russia v Uruguay
Italy A v Romania
France A v Scotland A