An ‘Emerging Ireland’ team will participate in the inaugural IRB Tbilisi Cup this summer in a tournament that also includes host team Georgia, Uruguay and a South Africa President’s XV.
The International Rugby Board has announced details of an exciting new annual international tournament as part of its ongoing strategy of increasing the competition schedule for tier 2 nations.
The IRB Tbilisi Cup will take place in Georgia from June 7 to 16 and will feature 2015 Rugby World Cup hopefuls Georgia and Uruguay as well as the South Africa President’s XV and Emerging Ireland teams.
Back-to-back matches will be played on each of the three match days (June 7, 11 and 16) in the nation’s capital with the teams competing in a round robin format.
With rugby now firmly established as the national sport in Georgia and the Lelos currently topping the European Nations Cup standings, an event that serves as a Rugby World Cup qualifier, the IRB-funded Tbilisi Cup is poised to be a popular addition to the international rugby calendar.
IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset said: “This exciting addition of the IRB Tbilisi Cup to the international match schedule is great news for Georgia and Uruguay who are both striving for Rugby World Cup qualification.
“The addition of Emerging Ireland and the South Africa President’s XV ensures a high calibre competition that will deliver compelling matches, while also fulfilling the high performance needs of our Unions.
“Georgians love rugby and I am sure the event will be a huge success for the popularity and profile of Georgian rugby, the participating Unions and the development of the game worldwide.”
With the IRB Tbilisi Cup, IRB Nations Cup, IRB Pacific Nations Cup and a programme of tier 1 Test matches for Japan, USA, Canada and Samoa in the June window, there will be an unprecedented volume of international matches for the world’s up-and-coming teams, underscoring the IRB’s commitment to close the competition gap between tier 1 and 2 Unions.
IRB Head of Competitions and Performance Mark Egan said: “Awarding the hosting rights to Georgia for a tournament of this standing is just reward for the outstanding progress that the Union is making on both the development and high performance fronts.
“Significant investment by the Georgian government over the past four years has led to the construction of world class training and match venue facilities in Tbilisi which will be available to the participating teams.
“The inclusion of the South Africa Presidents’s XV and Emerging Ireland teams will provide valuable tier 1 level opposition to Georgia and Uruguay as they both continue on the 2015 Rugby World Cup qualification pathway.”
For Georgia, the opportunity to showcase rugby and the country to a worldwide audience while hosting its first ever senior IRB tournament represents a historic landmark for the game in Georgia.
“The Georgian Rugby Union is grateful to the International Rugby Board for the decision to organise a fully-fledged international tournament in Tbilisi,” said George Nijaradze, President of the Georgian Rugby Union.
“This decision, which we see as acknowledgement of recent achievements made by Georgian rugby, is the greatest challenge for us.
“The IRB Tbilisi Cup will contribute to the further development and popularization of rugby in Georgia and will internationally promote Georgia as a rugby nation.”
The full match schedule and venues will be announced in due course.