The IRB Nations Cup will take on extra significance in June with four of the participating teams using the tournament as a platform to fine-tune preparations ahead of Rugby World Cup 2011.
IRB Nations Cup 2010 champions Namibia join hosts Romania and Georgia, who have all qualified for Rugby’s showcase event, together with Americas Rugby Championship holders the Argentina Jaguars plus Portugal and the South African Kings in an exciting cross-continent line up.
The South African Kings join the Nations Cup for the first time following a two-year absence for South Africa teams who have not participated since Emerging South Africa won back-to-back tournament titles in 2007 and 2008.
Having provided the setting for four immensely successful Nations Cups, the National Arcul de Triumf Stadium in Bucharest will again host the tournament, designed to provide extended international competition, played over three triple-header match days on June 10, 15 and 19.
“This year’s IRB Nations Cup is a critical stage in the Rugby World Cup preparation programmes for Romania, Namibia, Georgia and Argentina,” said IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset, in Cape Town for the announcement.
“In deciding on the line-up we have tried to find a balance between ensuring that there are IRB ranking test matches between the Tier 2 Unions and that the level of competiveness of the participating teams provides an appropriate benchmarking opportunity that the Rugby World Cup-bound Unions require to test their systems and team management structures.”
“The inclusion of the South African Kings is welcome in that the team will be comprised of professional players from the Southern Kings franchise, thereby providing a higher quality of opposition for the Tier 2 unions than they would otherwise encounter in their normal regional competition environment,” added Lapasset.
SARU President Oregan Hoskins also welcomed the presence of a South African team in the IRB Nations Cup after a two-year absence from the competition.
“The inclusion of a Kings selection is another important step in our effort to create quality playing time for the Kings in view of their future participation in Vodacom Super Rugby. The tournament will assist SARU to give much needed international exposure to players and coaching staff in a region that is of huge strategic importance to us,” said Hoskins.
The IRB Nations Cup kicks off on June 10 with Rugby World Cup Pool B teams Georgia and Romania coming face-to-face with African opposition in South African Kings and Namibia, and Argentina Jaguars face Portugal.
With the Romanian Rugby community still on a high after the national team’s Rugby World Cup qualification last November in the final play-off match against Uruguay, interest in this year’s tournament is expected to be unprecedented.
Round 1: Friday, June 10
17:00 - Romania v Namibia
19:00 - Georgia v South African Kings
21:00 - Argentina Jaguars v Portugal
Round 2: Wednesday, June 15
17:00 - Georgia v Argentina Jaguars
19:00 - Romania v South African Kings
21:00 - Portugal v Namibia
Round 3: Sunday, June 19
17:00 - Portugal v South African Kings
19:00 - Georgia v Namibia
21:00 - Romania v Argentina Jaguars