IRB Nations Cup: Preview facts & figures

(IRB.COM) Thursday 10 June 2010
By Iain Mackie
 
 IRB Nations Cup: Preview facts & figures
The six team captains with IRB Tournament Director, Beth Coalter


Hosts Romania, still battling to qualify for the 2011 Rugby World Cup, face Africa's top qualifier Namibia in the opening match of the nine-game, two-week IRB Nations Cup Tournament in Bucharest, on June 11.

The hosts play at 15:00 local time and then the Argentine Jaguars will take on traditional foes Italy in the second match.

At the climax of an enthralling triple-header Scotland A will kick off their title defence against Georgia, also a qualifier for next year's World Cup and the side that memorably frightened the life out of Ireland in France in 2007.

NATIONS CUP MATCHES >>
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The IRB Nations Cup is now well-established and the hosts Romania have taken part in all tournaments bar the inaugural event in Lisbon in 2006. Left wing Catalin Fercu makes his ninth appearance, while teammate Ionut Dimofte will make his 10th appearance if he comes off the bench.

The host nation finished fourth in 2007, third in 2008 and fourth in 2009.

Lining up against the hosts, Namibia will be making their second appearance and hoping to start with a win in scorching weather conditions similar to those on their home turf in Windhoek.

The Namibians finished bottom on their only previous appearance in 2007 and along with Portugal are the only team yet to win a Nations Cup match.

Having made their debut last year, Scotland A are the only team with a 100% winning record in the tournament. With an average of 24 years and 10 months the Scots are the second youngest team after the Jaguars, nearly a year younger on average. There are four players uncapped at 'A' level in the starting line-up - Alex Blair, Jack Cuthbert, Colin Shaw and Steven Turnbull - and a further three in Chris Fusaro, Fraser McKenzie and Bryan Rennie on the bench.

Italy A are the only team to have played in every IRB Nations Cup tournament. They finished second in 2006 and in 2009, fifth in 2007 and fourth in 2008. They are also the top points scorers overall with 251.

The Azzuri also boast the player who has competed in the most Nations Cup matches, the record of 12 belonging to Italian hooker Luigi Ferrao, although he is not on the Italian team sheet for their opening match against the Jaguars.

The Jaguars of Argentina won the tournament in 2006 and finished second in 2007 behind the Emerging Sprinbgoks. They are also the top try scorers.

The Georgians finished third in 2007 and second in 2008 behind Emerging South Africa.

The match between Romania and Namibia will be the 34th in the history of the tournament. In the 33 matches played so far there have been 1,367 points scored at an average of 41.4 points per game. The 2006 game between Argentina A and Russia yielded the most points (70) in a single match, as well as the biggest winning margin of 58.