Argentina invited to join the Tri-Nations
September 14, 2009
Argentina are set to line-up in an expanded Tri-Nations competition from 2012 © Getty Images
Argentina have been invited to join the Tri-Nations from 2012 to create a new "Four Nations" Championship.
SANZAR, the umbrella group representing South Africa, New Zealand and Australia, have opened the door to the Pumas on the condition that they can guarantee the participation of their best players.
The vast majority of Argentina's leading players are currently contracted with clubs in Europe and as a result are tied into the northern hemisphere season but will be given the opportunity to join a team within the soon-to-be-expanded Super Rugby competition.
Any agreement is also conditional pending approval from broadcasters and a sustainable financial model.
"To have the Pumas, third at Rugby World Cup 2007 and currently ranked sixth in the world, join with the three top ranked international teams in world rugby will be exciting for fans, players, sponsors and broadcasters across our four countries and beyond," Andy Marinos, Acting Managing Director of SA Rugby and CEO of SANZAR said. "They play a different style to the All Blacks, Springboks and Wallabies and their inclusion will see the Tri-Nations evolve to be a truly southern hemisphere Championship.
"In addition, SANZAR is in the process of renegotiating its broadcasting contracts and, whilst we have kept our broadcasters fully informed about the discussions with Argentina, we now need to confirm their view on the plan to include Argentina from 2012."
SANZAR stressed that conditions are attached to the invitation for the Unión Argentina de Rugby (UAR) to join the Four Nations in 2012. They are focused around:
+ Argentina securing the participation of their best players to play in the Four Nations. To assist with this the National Unions of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa are very keen to actively work with Argentina to place their best players across Super Rugby teams in the three countries;
+ SANZAR and Argentina confirming the financial model that will apply.
IRB chairman Bernard Lapasset hailed the proposal, saying that they will work closely with all parties in order to ensure that the Pumas are able to take their place in the tournament.
"The IRB will continue to work closely with the UAR and SANZAR to try to ensure that Argentina's proposed inclusion becomes a reality," he said. "We will work with all stakeholders to try to ensure that appropriate conditions of invitation are met, including the participation of Argentina's top players and the implementation of a sound and sustainable financial model. Today's announcement is a significant milestone and the IRB would like to express its thanks to SANZAR for its commitment to the process."
The format for the new Four Nations will see the four teams playing on a home and away basis meaning six matches per team and a total of 12 matches overall. The Four Nations will be played from mid-August (following the end of the new Super Rugby competition) for an eight or nine week period through until early to mid-October. In a Rugby World Cup year an abbreviated format will be played through July and August.
"I have no words to express my joy and that of the team that worked so hard to achieve this goal," said former Pumas skipper and member of Four Nations project team Agustin Pichot.
"We're really happy to get this chance to show that we're ready to play at the highest level of international rugby. This achievement will be vital to promote further growth of the game in Argentina. It is history in the making and we should all be very proud."
His sentiments were echoed by current Pumas star Juan Martin Hernandez, "This is no surprise, but after so many years asking to be part of a big tournament, all I can say is it is spectacular. It is great for Argentine rugby to be able to compete with the best."
"Now we need to keep on working and keep the high standards that helped us get invited to the 'Four Nations'."
The latest Week in Pictures takes in the remarkable events in Brisbane and the first round of the European Rugby Champions Cup
Following Saturday's shock announcement, we look at the highs and the lows of Ewen McKenzie's brief stint as Wallabies coach.
"I think the work I do in defence gets spoken of a little too much as it comes at the expense of what I do in attack." Brad Barritt talks to Tom Hamilton
The European Champions Cup: what's changed and what's new in the revamped competition previously known as the Heineken Cup?