IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset has hailed the IRB International Rugby Series as "a major milestone in the drive to increase the competitiveness of Test Rugby" as Colwyn Bay kicked off an unprecedented November schedule for Tier Two and Three Unions.
The action kicked off at a packed Parc Eirias last night where four nations repaid the people of Colwyn Bay and the Conway region for their superb hospitality and hosting by serving up two high-quality, entertaining international matches.
In the first match, the USA repeated their Rugby World Cup 2011 pool phase defeat of Russia with a 40-26 win that saw the Russians finish strongly. The second saw an exciting Samoa side beat Canada 42-12, signposting the Pacific Island team's intent prior to a mouth-watering match against Wales next weekend.
Funded by the IRB and supported by the WRU and Conway Council, the second round of IRB International Rugby Series matches will be played next Saturday when Tonga will replace Samoa.
Lapasset said: "The IRB International Rugby Series is a major milestone in the IRB's drive to increase the competitiveness of Test Rugby and the IRB's commitment to assisting Tier Two and Three Unions access a competition schedule that meets their strategic high performance needs and delivers IRB World Rankings opportunities."
"The opening matches in Colwyn Bay last night demonstrated the wonderful excitement and talent that these nations bring to the international calendar and for the likes of Samoa it is a perfect preparation platform ahead of their matches against Tier One opposition in November."
IRB Head of Development and Performance Mark Egan, who was in Colwyn Bay for the matches, added: "These matches are an important element of our strategic investment programme, which was launched in 2006 and is about building the best-possible structures for Tier Two and Tshree Unions to compete, and cause upsets, at Rugby World Cup 2015."
"We are six years into that programme, have witnessed the performance gap between Tier One and Two close at consecutive Rugby World Cups, and in delivering a programme of seven or eight test matches for Tier Two Unions on an annual basis, our Unions now have a robust competition springboard to prepare for England 2015 and beyond."
Other Unions involved in the 2012 IRB International Rugby Series matches across Europe are Fiji, Georgia, Japan and Romania, while Portugal face Uruguay and Chile in South America and Namibia, Zimbabwe and Spain compete in a Tri Nations competition in Windhoek from November 10 to 17.
The matches are in addition to an unprecedented programme of Tier Two and Three matches this year, including those between Tier One and Tier Two/Three nations within the 2012-2019 international Tours and Test schedule which has increased opportunities for emerging Rugby powers to play the world's best teams in June and November.
The IRB is providing free live streaming of the IRB International Rugby Series matches from Colwyn Bay via www.irb.com. Click here for more details.
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