by Nigel Melville
Nigel Melville Direct
On Friday I spent the day with the International Rugby Board, Pacific Islands, Japan and Canada to discuss a potential new format for the Pacific Nations Cup 2013 – 2015. These talks started over a year ago in a Tier 2 Meeting in Los Angeles followed by a meeting we hosted in Las Vegas in February. The biggest challenge for us all has been the availability of regular international competition that have real meaning and help us to become more competitive. We all want to play the Tier 1 teams, but they are less keen to play us when they can make plenty of money playing each other. IRB Regulation 9 controls player release issues and therefore there are only specific weeks we can play each other in June and November.
At the moment USA and Canada are very much in the same position, we play each other and scramble to find fixtures each June and November. The Churchill Cup was a help, but playing Tier 1 ‘A’ teams while our competitors were playing ranking tests helped in terms of competition effected our rankings.
Discussions between the Tier 2′s and Tier 1′s resulted in a limited (but very welcome) inbound Tier 1 schedule for Canada and the USA each June and games against Tier 1′s for the Islands during November in Europe. The impact being that we will host Italy (2012 buy your tickets now), Ireland (2013) and Scotland (2014) in June. Of course, that’s great but we need more fixtures and friendlies don’t cut it with our fans, we want meaningful games.
So the Tier 2 discussions moved towards games between ourselves. In Europe during the Six Nations, FIRA have developed their own tournament, but once again USA and Canada were left on our own. So we started to discuss an expanded Pacific Nations Cup to include the 3 Pacific Islands, Japan, USA and Canada.
Hence the meeting this week, the picture above shows us working on the schedules, in short, how we can get six countries, 33 games, plus Tier 1 Commitments into the June window!! It would have been easy to turn around and say that it couldn’t be done, but the groups mindset is to get this done and at the end of a very long day/evening, we had developed fixtures and a schedule for 2013/14 and 15 for a new look Pacific Nations Cup.
Next steps, the schedule is being double checked, the logistics folk are putting together a plan and the financial team working out the costs. We have developed a commercial program for Title Sponsors and Broadcasters, and the final step will be approval from the IRB Council/Executive.
What this will mean to the USA Eagles will be a Tier 1 test game at home each year in June, plus games against the likes of Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, Japan and Canada. In November we will travel east and play against European Tier 2′s.
Time well spent, and a schedule that makes for some exciting games, tough competition and the chance to play Tier 1 teams between world cups. I will keep you updated with progress.
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With an impressive resume as player, coach and administrator, Nigel David Melville took over as CEO and President of Rugby Operations of USA Rugby, the National Governing Body of the sport in America, in 2006. In addition to his full time job promoting the sport in the U.S., Melville has launched his own blog, Nigel Melville Direct, to further the discussion and his passion for what it will take to make the U.S. a great rugby playing nation.
CLICK HERE to read more on Nigel Melville
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