| Tavita |
2015 is a big, big year for Rugby Union watchers all over the world.
It’s the year of the eighth World Cup, starting and ending at Twickenham from September 18 to October 20.
From Uruguay and Argentine to ….
…Japan, Fji, Samoa and Tonga
…..on to Oz and Godzone ,,,,
….across to South Africa and Namibia …..
….up to Georgia, Romania, Italy and France …..
…..over the channel to England, Wales and Scotland …..
…..on to Ireland……
…..and back across the Atlantic to the USA and Canada.
How about that for Big Stuff?
I quote a quotable World Cup boss.
“This is the end of a three-year long and enjoyable road to England 2015, that involved 83 nations, over 200 qualifying games and it has been a great promotion of the game worldwide.”
“The biggest ever,” he added.
It’s hard to argue with him. This is indeed a Big, Event, the biggest single world tournament on show until next year’s Olympics and featuring every continent.
But for all of us rugby watchers, there’s much, much more than the Big Day in September.
There’s the Big, Big Build-Up.
It’s now officially known as the “International Window,” the IRB’s Global Rugby Calendar.
IN the Northern Hemisphere, it’s about to get underway this coming week with the opening of the 6 Nations and Friday’s classic England versus Wales encounter.
From then on, every passionate rugby union watcher on his Euro sofa will be clicking away non-stop.
He and a growing number of she’s will be puffing up the pillow and frantically trying to keep up with a stack of club tournaments involving a heap of players from Scotland over to Georgia.
The Euro Champions and Challenge Cups; the LV Cup Group Stage; the Championship, SSE National Leagues One to the Two South and Two North.
The SWALEC Welsh National Championship; National League Divisions One East, West and North.
The Scottish National League Division One and the Irish Leagues Division One A and B.
The French Top 14.
And the ultimate Principality Building Society Premiership from somewhere up there in the Northern Hemisphere.
Moving on to the bottom half of the planet, every watching mate in the veldt, the outback or the milking shed will be settling in for the Super 15’s.
They get underway this weekend with warm-ups all round and Round One starts on Friday 13 February with the Crusaders and the Rebels.
After that, they carry on carry on mauling until the Final on July 4th.
Then, March sees the start of a flat-out series of warm up internationals for whole world’s watching population wherever they’re able to find a remote.
It opens with Uruguay and Argentina and carries on all the way to August, involving all the World Cup qualifiers from all over the world plus heaps of games against various Barbaraians.
Great Stuff but nothing as great as what’s in store for the island mates.
Starting on March 10 for two weeks, six teams are competing in the inaugural Pacific Challenge.
This is a round robin tournament designed to give up-and-comers a chance to catch the eye of their national World Cup selectors. It will run from March 10-23, with match days on 10, 14 and 18 March and the final held on 23 March.
It will take place the ANZ Stadium in Suva, Fiji and will feature Fiji ‘A’, Pacific neighbours Tonga ‘A’ and Samoa ‘A’, plus Japan Juniors, Argentina PAMPAS XV and Canada ‘A’.
A new format is in place for this year’s tournament, with Canada joining the competition and all the games taking place in Fiji over the two-week period.
Between 2009 and 2012 World Rugby invested around £16 million in Pacific Islands rugby. It is forecast that a further £19 million is soon expected.
To all of us highly experienced Pacific Islands followers, this latter estimate is very impressive.
It amounts to approximately eighteen million, nine hundred and ninety nine pounds nineteen and threepence halfpenny more than when we used to play for.
World Rugby Head of Competitions and Performance, Mark Egan, is quoted as delivering a Very Impressive Rugby Prouncement (VIRP) stating that:
“The Pacific Challenge is a key developmental tournament, and has added significance for teams in this Rugby World Cup year.”
“Creating a quality competition pathway for our high performance investment programme unions is one of World Rugby’s strategic aims and the Pacific Challenge helps local and academy players get beneficial game time, he added.”
“Details on where rugby fans can watch the event will be announced in due course,” he concluded.
“As soon as you can!” say watchers all over Auckland.
“We need to know which pub to avoid when it’s Samoa versus Tonga!”