IRB Pacific Nations CUP
The International Rugby Board has confirmed that the Junior All Blacks will return to compete in the IRB Pacific Nations Cup in 2009.
The 2006 and 2007 champions replace New Zealand Maori, the 2008 winners, to join Fiji, Japan, Samoa and Tonga for the exciting tournament, which provides a key player development role for each of the participating Unions. The return of the Junior All Blacks is another significant boost for a tournament that has secured a title sponsor in ANZ and is now firmly established as a major fixture on the international calendar.
"The participation of the Junior All Blacks in the IRB Pacific Nations Cup will be welcomed by Japan and the Pacific Island Unions. The New Zealand Rugby Union has been extremely supportive of the tournament since its inception in 2006 and the return of the two-time champions will certainly create additional interest in the 2009 event," said IRB Head of Development and Performance Mark Egan.
"The IRB is committed to developing Rugby around the world including the Pacific region. This is highlighted by the announcement earlier this year that the second phase of the strategic investment programme will see a further US$94 million invested in the Game. This includes the continued delivery of development initiatives and key tournaments in the Pacific region such as the IRB Pacific Nations Cup and IRB Pacific Rugby Cup that provide player development pathways."
"The IRB Pacific Nations Cup has certainly played a large role in raising the competitiveness of Test Rugby in the region, highlighted by the memorable performances of Fiji, Japan, Samoa and Tonga at Rugby World Cup 2007."
"With an exciting new competition format due to be announced in the New Year, the scene is set for what promises to be a fascinating 2009 tournament," added Egan.
The announcement follows the Australian Rugby Union's decision to withdraw the 2007 and 2008 runners-up Australia A from next year's tournament following a strategic review of operations and planning for 2009 by the Union.