The International Rugby Board has welcomed the announcement that SANZAR has invited Argentina to join an expanded Tri Nations tournament from 2012.
Argentina’s invitation is the culmination of an IRB-led process that kicked off in November 2007 with the historic Woking Accord where rugby’s major stakeholders agreed that a transition programme for Argentina’s full integration into the senior international playing calendar was a key priority.
It is proposed that Argentina, bronze medallists at the 2007 Rugby World Cup, will join Australia, New Zealand and South Africa to create a new Four Nations tournament.
The proposed format 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 would be played from mid-August, following the end of the new Super Rugby competitio, for an eight or nine-week period through until early to mid-October.
In a Rugby World Cup year, an abbreviated format would be played through July and August.
Commenting today, IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset said: “The IRB welcomes the news that SANZAR has invited Argentina to join a new Four Nations from 2012.
“A key recommendation of the Woking Forum was to prioritise finding a solution that would lead to Argentina’s integration into an annual tournament structure.
“Today’s announcement is extremely exciting for the Unión Argentina de Rugby (UAR) and rugby fans around the world.
“The IRB will continue to work closely with the UAR and SANZAR to try to ensure that Argentina’s proposed inclusion becomes a reality.
“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.”
UAR President Porfirio Carreras said: “This a momentous time for rugby in Argentina and I would like to thank my board and everyone who supported us to reach this point.
“We are very much looking forward to playing in the best competition in world rugby in 2012, alongside our partners in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.”
Agustín Pichot, UAR High Performance Board member and captain of the Pumas at the 2007 Rugby World Cup, also welcomed the invitation, saying that it will provide the impetus for participation growth within Argentina.
“I can’t express the joy of what this means for me and the whole team at the UAR who have been working on this important project,” he said.
“We are delighted to now get the chance to become a great rugby nation with the chance to play top level international rugby on an annual basis.
“This exciting development will be vital to growing the game across Argentina and South America. This is a historic moment and everyone in Argentina should be proud.”
The IRB is committed to the ongoing development of rugby in Argentina and annually invests close to US$2 million in the UAR’s domestic High Performance and development structures.
This investment helps fund the highly successful new national High Performance Academy, the Argentina Jaguars and the national Under-20 and Sevens programmes, all of which underpin the future competiveness of the Pumas.