MIAMI – Executive members of the top-6 ranked rugby nations spanning North and South America met in Miami, FL this week to discuss the creation of a new annual International Championship set to begin in 2016. The tournament, which has yet to be named, would be a groundbreaking endeavor strengthening rugby competition across the two continents.
“This is a historic moment for rugby in the Americas,” said Agustin Pichot, former Argentinean captain and current Pan American Rugby Association President. “We had a very productive meeting in Miami and as a group of Unions we believe that an American championship would contribute significantly to the development of the game in the Americas. There is a lot of work to be done but the future looks bright.”
Echoing Agustin’s statement, Sebastian Pineyura, Uruguay Rugby President said, “We are very happy with the progress made in the meeting. The strategic goal of this tournament is aligned with our plans as a Union and we are sure it will be a great development tool for rugby in the Americas.”
During an initial tournament scoping exercise, all six nations agreed the International Championship would be developed under the guidance of the Pan American Rugby Association (PARA). The competing nations – Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Uruguay and the United States – will each play five matches annually, giving Rugby fans across the Americas a chance to see top-tier international competition on a regular basis.
Agustin Danza, CEO, Brazil was also in attendance at the meeting, saying, “We are very optimistic about the future of rugby in the Americas. The collaboration we achieved in this first meeting showed us that by having more of these meetings, we will be able to accelerate the growth of the region.” Brazil is the host nation for the 2016 Summer Olympics, in which rugby will make its triumphant return to the Olympic Games programme via the Rugby Sevens format of the game.
Executive members representing each nation’s rugby unions have agreed to work together to develop a fixture schedule spanning 5 years, determining home and away matches for each nation. “We had a great meeting in which all the invited countries collaborated enthusiastically to make progress and reach agreements,” said Sebastian Bianchi representing Chile “the dream of a tournament with the six nations is closer every day.”
During the meeting plans for future expansion of the competition were also discussed and proposals will be put forward to World Rugby to see how a tiered competition structure that could eventually incorporate all Unions in the Americas could become a reality.
USA Rugby CEO Nigel Melville said “This is an exciting time for Rugby in the Americas and the establishment of a sustainable annual International Rugby Championship for the Unions in the Americas will be an important step forward for the development of the game in the region.”
North America’s other representative, Rugby Canada CEO Graham Brown, agreed, saying, “Rugby Canada believes strongly in working with our partners across the Americas. A competition that provides high-quality, consistent fixtures annually will help further ensure the growth of the game in both North and South America.”
Work will now commence to develop the competition schedule and operations plans ahead of the planned 2016 launch.