USA Rugby calls on NZR's help to bring back Pacific Nations Cup
USA Rugby has called on New Zealand Rugby [NZR] to help bring the United States more regular test fixtures via the Pacific Nations Cup.
The All Blacks and USA Eagles are set to face off in Washington DC in October as part of New Zealand’s end-of-year tour, but USA Rugby chief executive Ross Young is calling for more meaningful and regular tests beyond that clash.
Since the 2019 World Cup, the Eagles have played just two test matches, both of which came last month against under-strength Wales and England teams whose best players were on tour in South Africa with the British and Irish Lions.
Covid-19 has played its part in denying the Eagles the chance to take to the field over the past year-and-a-half, with the virus pulling the pin on the USA’s entire test calendar in 2020.
The United States were set to play in the Americas Rugby Championship against an Argentina XV, Canada, Uruguay, Brazil and Chile, before going on to play Italy and the French Barbarians in the July, while a further test against Canada was scheduled for October.
However, Young wants the resurrection of the Pacific Nations Cup, an annual competition that has been played since 2019 that sees the USA, Canada, Fiji, Samoa, Tonga and Japan pitted against each other.
The tournament gave the six tier two nations the kind of regular and meaningful fixtures that Young is yearning for, but complications from the pandemic has put the competition on pause after Japan last won it two years ago.
Young revealed to Stuff that further complications have arisen given the USA’s status as a northern hemisphere nation, which means their European-based players are granted releases during the Six Nations in February and March, in addition to the July and November test windows.
However, the Six Nations test window clashes with the Major League Rugby season, meaning the USA’s current status as a northern hemisphere test nation doesn’t work for them.
Instead, Young wants the United States aligned with the Pacific Rim nations and the revival of the Pacific Nations Cup.
“We’ve started those discussions with World Rugby, almost trying to re-designate ourselves, so we get the opportunity to play international games in and around the Rugby Championship, which makes much more sense to have continuity in a season,” Young told Stuff.
“There was the Pacific Rim Trophy [about] 10 years ago, which involved Japan, the Pacific Islands, US and Canada. To me, that’s what makes sense.
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“The lack of regular games for the likes of Fiji and Japan, Samoa, Canada etc, that sort of Pacific Rim type championship is the thing to me that makes the most logical sense for our involvement.”
It’s here where Young wants the help of NZR. While he acknowledged NZR has its own domestic problems, he is keen to see one of rugby’s juggernaut unions use its influence at World Rugby level to push for change to help develop the lower-level unions.
“I’ve got reasonably regular catch-ups with ‘Robbo’ [NZR chief executive Mark Robinson],” Young told Stuff.
“It’s important that when we’re pushing for it we also have the right strategic partners pushing for it as well, and being open to allow that change to happen.
“Fortunately I’ve got a good relationship with Robbo and [Rugby Australia chief executive] Andy Marinos from his days in South Africa and SANZAAR as well, so hopefully we can continue to bang the table and make something happen.”
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