IRB Pacific Rugby Cup: 5 Weeks of Pacific Rugby Fest

APIA: 21 April 2009: The Pacific Islands’ premier player development competition, the IRB Pacific Rugby Cup (PRC) kicks off its 2009 edition at Apia Park and Lawaqa Park on 24 April. The highly-competitive tournament played over a 5-week period features two regional teams from Fiji (Warriors and Barbarians), Tonga (Tau’uta Reds and Tautahi Gold and Samoa (Upolu Samoa and Savai’i Samoa). The tournament features some of the most explosive and dynamic talent in world rugby as well as the most brutal physical contest likely to be seen anywhere.

“The IRB Pacific Rugby Cup has played a significant part in the development of the Game in the Pacific Islands over the past three years. It has grown to become a major focal point for the three participating Unions, generating excellent attendances, providing competitive matches while maintaining a strong emphasis on identification and preparation of locally-based players for the Test arena,” said IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset.

“The tournament is a key element of the IRB’s four-year £48 million global strategic investment programme aimed at driving global playing standards and provides the opportunity for over 200 players in the Islands to gain exposure to a high-intensity representative tournament that bridges the gap between club Rugby and the ANZ IRB Pacific Nations Cup,” added Lapasset.

The 2008 tournament alone saw 47 players from Fiji, Samoa and Tonga graduate through to the IRB’s flagship international tournament for the Oceania region, the IRB Pacific Nations Cup. While Rugby World Cup 2007 in France also saw a number of players from the IRB Pacific Rugby Cup starring for their country on the biggest stage of all in what was a hugely successful tournament for the Pacific Island Unions.

“The IRB Pacific Rugby Cup has grown in stature over the past three years and, in conjunction with the High Performance Units established in the Islands, is a major component in the growth of Rugby across the Islands. It has become a focal component of the Rugby Community, has generated strong crowds and inspired great interest in Fiji, Tonga and Samoa. The 2009 competition promises to be even better,” said IRB Regional General Manager for Oceania Will Glenwright.

The 2009 tournament kicks off on April 24 with 2006 champions Savai’i Samoa facing Tau’uta Reds of Tonga in Apia and the all-Fijian affair between the Barbarians and the Warriors in Sigatoka. Defending champions Tautahi Gold, the first non-Samoan side to win the competition, start their title defence against Upolu Samoa in Nuku’alofa the following day in a repeat of the 2008 final, won by Tautahi 11-3.

The Samoa Rugby Union (SRU) will be using the 2009 tournament to showcase First XV rugby and Primary school tag rugby as part of its development program.

President for the Samoa Schools Rugby Union, Logopati Mataafa has tentatively agreed for the final of the Smokefree First XV grand final as curtain-raiser to Round 5’s Savaii Samoa vs Upolu Samoa local derby.

“That will be our Champion of Champions finals and timing is perfect. That match is an unofficial Manu Samoa trial and means that the National selectors and who’s who of the rugby fraternity will be there to also watch our game”, says Mataafa.

“It’s a huge opportunity for our secondary schools players to impress especially with places up for grabs in the U-18 Schoolboys tour to New Zealand later in August this year.”

For the under-12 age group, a 10-a-side ‘New Image’ rugby tournament introduces a new event formatted to cover the 5-rounds of the PRC. Samoa Rugby Union’s Tours and Event Manager, Lemalu Schuster says,  “We’ve been planning this for a while as it’s a great developmental catalyst to get both girls and boys involved from this young stage. There’s no doubt the importance of this age-group to maintaining interest in rugby and increasing our elite pool depth 5-6 years down the track.

“The Union’s development unit has been working in this area for the past three to five years and this tournament gives an international stage to showcase this work and an incentive for the children to aim towards.”

The young players tournament also forms part of the Union’s strategy to attract parents to the ground.

“We’ll be putting aside a special area at Apia Park where the children can rest, have some fun-games and a BBQ so they can stay to watch the PRC games. We aim to turn it into an enjoyable and fun activity for the little ones and their parents, something that adds value and enjoyment to their rugby experience.”

With five rounds to find the top two teams that will compete in the Grand Final on the weekend of May 30-31, it’s a point to note that if this event is held in Samoa, it’s sure to be a cracker both on, and off the field.

IRB Pacific Rugby Cup 2009 Match Schedule
Round 1
Friday, April 24 – Savai’i Samoa v Tau’uta Reds – Apia Park – KO 17.30 local time
Friday, April 24 – Fiji Barbarians v Fiji Warriors – Lawaqa Park, Sigatoka – KO 17.00
Saturday, April 25 – Tautahi Gold v Upolu Samoa – Teufaiva Stadium, Nuku’alofa – KO 15:00

Round 2
Friday, May 1 – Upolu Samoa v Tau’uta Reds – Apia Park – KO 17:30
Friday, May 1 – Fiji Barbarians v Savai’i Samoa – Churchill Park, Lautoka – KO 18:00
Saturday, May 2 – Tautahi Gold v Fiji Warriors – Teufaiva Stadium, Nuku’alofa – KO 12:00

Round 3
Friday, May 8 – Upolu Samoa v Fiji Barbarians – Apia Park – KO 17:30
Saturday, May 9 – Fiji Warriors v Savai’i Samoa – Lawaqa Park, Sigatoka – KO 15:00
Saturday, May 9 – Tautahi Gold v Tau’uta Reds – Teufaiva Stadium, Nuku’alofa – KO 15:00

Round 4
Friday, May 15 – Fiji Warriors v Upolu Samoa – Churchill Park, Lautoka – KO 18:00
Saturday, May 16 – Tau’uta Reds v Fiji Barbarians – Teufaiva Stadium, Nuku’alofa – KO 12.00
Saturday, May 16 – Savai’i Samoa v Tautahi Gold – Prince Edward Park, Iva – KO 14:00

Round 5
Friday, May 22 – Savai’i Samoa v Upolu Samoa – Apia Park – KO 17:30
Friday, May 22 – Fiji Barbarians v Tautahi Gold – Lawaqa Park, Sigatoka – KO 17:00
Saturday, May 23 – Tau’uta Reds v Fiji Warriors – Teufaiva Stadium, Nuku’alofa – KO 15:00

FINAL
May 30/31 – Venue and kick off time to be confirmed.

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