Pumas brought in from the cold
Tri Nations giants Australia, New Zealand and South Africa have invited Argentina to join them in a new Four Nations championship from 2012. The invitation is conditional on the Pumas having their best players available for the tournament, most of whom currently play for European clubs.
To assist with this, the three unions will “actively work” with Argentina to place their best players in the Super 15 provincial competition.
Sanzar, the tournament’s governing body, also need to agree a financial model with Argentina and secure support from broadcasters.
But Sanzar are confident that with the assistance of the International Rugby Board and enthusiasm for the project in Argentina they can include the Pumas in a new tournament.
Sanzar chief executive Andy Marinos said: “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.
“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.
“With the significant progress the UAR has made in transforming rugby in Argentina and making the case to Sanzar for it to be included in the Tri Nations, we are confident that Sanzar, the UAR and the IRB can work together to confirm the Pumas participation from 2012.”
The format of the new competition would see all four teams playing on a home and away basis, meaning six matches per team and 12 overall.
The Four Nations would be played from mid-August — following the end of the new Super Rugby competition — for an eight or nine-week period into October.
In a Rugby World Cup year an abbreviated format would be played through July and August.
Agustin Pichot, the former Argentina captain and now a member of their Four Nations project team, said: “I can’t express the joy of myself and the team that has been working on this project to get to this point.
“We are delighted to have the chance to become a great rugby nation and to play in top-level international rugby and we are committed to working with Sanzar to meet the conditions.
“This exciting development will be vital to grow the game in Argentina. This is historic and everyone in Argentina should be proud.”