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Report: New international competition set to pit Asia-Pacific against Americas

By Sam Smith
Siale Piutau and AJ MacGinty. (Photo by Francois Nel/World Rugby via Getty Images)

A new international rugby competition lined up for 2024 could see the best tier-two teams from Asia-Pacific take on their counterparts from the Americas.

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Alan Gilpin, the CEO of World Rugby, recently confirmed that while the Americas Rugby Championship is not set to make a return anytime soon, the likes of recent World Cup qualifiers Uruguay and Chile won’t be left in the cold when it comes to getting opportunities to play similar strength nations.

Plans are in the advanced stages for an “Asia Pacific Americas competition that will see USA, Canada, Chile, Uruguay, Argentina etc playing regularly,” Gilpin told The Guardian.

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According to Uruguayan news outlet El Observador, the proposed competition will see the top four tier-two sides in the Americas – USA, Canada, Chile and Uruguay – take on the likes of Fiji, Samoa, Japan and Tonga during the mid-year test window at the same time the Rugby Championship takes place.

Teams would be split between an Asia-Pacific pool and an Americas pool, with each team facing off with their opposition from within the same pool before taking part in two weeks of finals action.

While Japan and Fiji have been on a quest to stake out a top-level tier-one competition to regularly participate in, it appears that the current model will see the Rugby Championship remain a tournament between New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and Argentina, with the new ‘Americas Pacific Asia Championship’ effectively operating as a second division.

It would also take the place of the Pacific Nations Cup, which was reintroduced this year for the first time since 2019 and took place during the July test window. By replacing that tournament with one that would kick off a month later in August, it would ensure the likes of Tonga, Samoa, Fiji and Japan could fully partake in the normal test series that populate July.

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Although Japan may yet look to link up with the Rugby Championship in the longer-team, it’s likely believed that the APAC would pave the way for higher quality games for both the Asia-Pacific and Americas regions – including Japan – without compromising the teams that aren’t quite up to the same level at present, such as Chile, the USA and Canada.

For the latter two sides, the new competition could prove to be hugely beneficial, given their slide in the world standings which has seen Canada miss out on playing in the 2023 Rugby World Cup and USA’s chances poised on a knife-edge after their defeat at the hands of Chile. Regular matches against the likes of the Pacific Island sides – as was typical in years gone by – should help to bring their tests sides back up to standard ahead of the 2031 World Cup which will take place in the USA.

On the other side of the coin, the rumoured APAC tournament would be a disappointing outcome for Brazil and other South American sides that are slowly developing their games, as it would leave them on the outers.

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