The Int'l Rugby Board has revealed that Canada and the U.S. will join rugby's Pacific Nations Cup this year, "providing a boost for tier two nations with more competitive matches," according to Patrick Johnston of REUTERS. In a statement the IRB said that the North American countries will be permanent additions to the IRB-funded annual tournament, which features Japan, Tonga, Fiji and Samoa. Japan, World Cup hosts in '19, "will stage the final round in June." The initiative is the latest move by the IRB to "try to improve standards in world rugby, which is dominated by New Zealand and a handful of other nations" (REUTERS, 1/22).
CONSIDERING ITS OPTIONS: In Sydney, Wayne Smith reported SANZAR CEO Greg Peters has welcomed the decision to shake up the Pacific Nations Cup. The three SANZAR nations, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia, "will decide later this year whether to effectively go global" with Super Rugby when the next broadcast deal starts in '16, with North America, Japan and Argentina currently all under investigation. Peters said, "We are considering whether or not we will include new territories in Super Rugby, and one of the factors we'll be weighing up is their competitiveness." Super Rugby "already involves more travel than any other regular sporting contest in the world," and Peters acknowledged that adding destinations in Asia and North and South America "would not be done lightly." Peters: "Player welfare is a big consideration. That said, the conference system does provide us with a degree of flexibility, either in terms of adding new conferences or adding new teams to existing conferences" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 1/24).