Argentina closer to joining Four Nations

(IRB.COM) Wednesday 12 May 2010
Argentina closer to joining Four Nations
Argentina could now be playing South Africa in the Four Nations from 2012

Argentina has moved a step closer to competing in an expanded Four Nations competition after the IRB Council today approved measures to assist with the release of the Pumas' top players for the southern hemisphere's showcase competition.

The decision to adjust IRB Regulation 9 which governs the release of players for international duty assists in facilitating the admission of the best Argentinean players into the competition from 2012 and concludes a collaborative process that began with the Woking Forum in November 2007 and has seen the global Rugby community unite behind the cause.

"Today's announcement represents an historic milestone in the process of Argentina's integration into an expanded Tri Nations tournament and is an extremely exciting development for the Unión Argentina de Rugby and Rugby around the world," said IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset.

"At the Woking Forum in 2007 the global Rugby community made a commitment to prioritise finding an appropriate solution for Argentina's integration into an annual tournament structure."

"This Regulatory amendment, coupled with the significant financial assistance of the IRB and SANZAR, represents the global Rugby community's support of this important programme and I would like to thank all parties and in particular SANZAR for their dedication to making Argentina's Four Nations dream a reality. We will continue to work in close collaboration with all stakeholders to make Argentina's transition as smooth as possible," added Lapasset.

There is no change to the existing Global, Hemisphere and Designated Events Release Periods and the overall limit on the numbers of Test matches covered under Regulation 9 remains the same. A new Four Nations Release Period to reflect the timeframe when the competition will be held (late August to early October) has been approved.

In order to accommodate players who will cross hemispheres to participate in the Four Nations and Six Nations competitions, the IRB Council approved a new Cross Hemisphere Player Release provision. This will enable players from the participating Unions concerned to benefit from release in the fallow weeks of the respective competitions, recognising player welfare and practical considerations.

In September 2009 SANZAR issued a conditional invitation to the Pumas in an expanded Four Nations competition from 2012. Another key condition was met when the IRB announced in March 2010 that it would provide an initial US$10 million funding package to support the transition programme to substantially underwrite the Pumas' entry into an expanded competition up to 2015. The contribution is in addition to the substantial multi-million dollar investment being made by SANZAR to facilitate the inclusion of Argentina in the Four Nations.

The IRB currently annually invests close to US$2 million in development and high performance programmes in Argentina. This significant investment helps fund the highly successful new national High Performance Academy, the Argentina Jaguars representative team and the national Under 20s and Sevens programmes, all of which underpin the future competiveness of the Pumas in the Four Nations and Rugby World Cup.

The changes to Regulation 9 will be communicated to all relevant stakeholders and will come into effect from June 1, 2012. SANZAR will now work with the UAR to finalise a participation agreement in order to move to full planning for the Pumas' introduction.

About IRB Regulation 9

Northern Hemisphere release period (no change)
- 5 matches
- 5 weekends during a 7 week period

Southern Hemisphere release period (no change)
- 6 matches
- 6 weekends during a 9 week period

June Global Release Period (no change)
- 3 matches
- 3 weekends

November Global Release Period (no change)
- 3 matches
- 3 weekends

Designated Release Period (no change)
- RWC Qualifying
- Olympic Games
- Olympic Games Qualifying

New Four Nations Release Period
- late August to early October
- 6 matches
- 6 weekends during an 8 week period

New Cross Hemisphere Player Release
- Opposite hemisphere players will be released for fallow weeks
- Applies to Northern Hemisphere Release Period (7 weeks)
- Applies to Four Nations Release Period (8 weeks)