Argentina has moved a step closer to joining an expanded Tri Nations in 2012 after the International Rugby Board today announced that it will provide a crucial US$10 million funding package to support the programme.
The package, ratified by the IRB Executive Committee, will see the Game's governing body substantially underwrite the Pumas entry into the southern hemisphere's showcase international Rugby competition with an unprecedented investment of US$2.5 million per year over the period 2012-2015 subject to SANZAR conditions being met.
The IRB's contribution is in addition to the multi-million dollar investment being made by SANZAR to facilitate the inclusion of Argentina in the Tri Nations. The IRB will work with SANZAR and the Unión Argentina de Rugby (UAR) to develop a framework that will drive the delivery of appropriate measures to ensure that other key elements of Argentina's conditional invitation are met.
SANZAR conditions include a guarantee that Argentina's best players will be available for the competition, protecting the Tri Nations as the elite competition for the southern hemisphere's best players. In order to achieve this key condition, the UAR and the SANZAR Unions have formally requested the IRB to amend Regulation 9, which governs international player availability. The IRB Council will now consider amending the scope of the Regulation at its May 12 meeting.
The announcement marks the latest phase of an IRB-led process that kicked off in November 2007 with the historic Woking Accord where the Game's major stakeholders agreed to prioritise finding an appropriate solution for Argentina's integration into an annual tournament structure.
"This announcement represents another significant milestone in the process of Argentina's integration into the Tri Nations and is an extremely exciting development for the Unión Argentina de Rugby and Rugby fans around the world," said IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset.
"The IRB recognises the substantial strategic financial and operational commitment that the SANZAR Unions are making to assist Argentina's inclusion and we will continue to work in close collaboration with all stakeholders to ensure a sustainable financial platform to make Argentina's transition as smooth as possible."
"It is now essential that all elements are delivered, including the participation of Argentina's top players. I would like to express my thanks to SANZAR for its continued commitment to the process," added Lapasset.
The IRB is committed to the ongoing development of Rugby in Argentina and annually invests close to US$2 million in the UAR's domestic High Performance and development structures. This investment helps fund the highly successful new national High Performance Academy, the Argentina Jaguars representative team and the national Under 20s and Sevens programmes, all of which underpin the future competiveness of the Pumas.
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