18 May, 11:09
IRFU Chief Executive Philip Browne has issued a statement following confirmation of Ronan O'Gara's decision to retire from playing professional rugby.
Rugby Union's newest composite test side, the Pacific Islanders Rugby Alliance (PIRA), unveiled a hefty sponsorship deal here Tuesday. The team, made up of the best players from Fiji, Samoa and Tonga, will play tests against Australia, New Zealand and South Africa later in June and July. PIRA said in a statement they had signed an exclusive naming rights agreement with Fiji manufacturer and retailer Punja and Sons worth in excess of 300,000 Fiji dollars (171,000 US) for the inaugural tour. "This is a milestone in the history of Pacific Island rugby and we are indebted to Punjas for their foresight in investing in the Pacific Islanders," said PIRA chief executive Charlie Charters. Charters said the sponsorship agreement was for one year with an option to renew. The sponsorship would ensure the team was fully funded without requiring any investment from the Unions of Fiji, Samoa and Tonga that owned the Islanders. Team coach Wayne Pivac said getting the right players was the key to the competitiveness of the Islanders. "This important sponsorship from Punjas now gives us the financial muscle to ensure that the team can become everything it should be in terms of our best players," said Pivac. According to the three Island rugby Unions the top players have all made themselves available for selection. PIRA has been in discussions with the South Africa, Australia and New Zealand (SANZAR) joint venture for three months about the inclusion of a Pacific Island Test and Super 12 team in the expanded competition scheduled to begin in season 2006. "Nothing definitive has come from this discussions but we are heartened the Punjas Pacific Islanders are playing such high profile matches at the exact time the shape of the new SANZAR agreement is being negotiated," said Charters. The Pacific Islanders is scheduled to play Test matches against the Wallabies in Adelaide on July 3, the All Blacks on July 10 in Albany and the