Junior Japan to make Pacific Rugby Cup debut and James Mortimer     21 Feb 2013    

Each of the teams will play three matches in Australia before heading to New Zealand to play a further three matches. The aim is to expose developing players in the four countries to higher levels of international competition every year. The teams will play against Super Rugby development teams and academies in Australia and New Zealand.

The New Zealand leg, featuring development teams from the Blues, Chiefs, Crusaders, Highlanders and Hurricanes, takes place from March 18 to April 7.

The three Pacific Island teams will then play each other later in the year prior to the northern hemisphere Test window to determine the PRC 2013 champions.

The Pacific Rugby Cup is funded by the IRB and sits one level below the Pacific Nations Cup that has also been restructured in 2013 to include USA and Canada. Both tournaments are funded by the IRB and reflect the governing body’s continued commitment to provide enhanced international competition structures for Tier Two Unions.

The expansion of the both the PRC and PNC means that Fiji, Samoa, Tonga and Japan are approaching a targeted aim of 20 international matches across Test matches and the A team format each year.

IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset said: "The IRB is committed to the development of Rugby throughout the Pacific Islands in order to increase competitiveness at test level. We are investing across four main areas: high Performance, development, competitions and administration. This is all possible because of the commercial success of Rugby World Cup.”

“That investment includes a commitment to ensure that the Pacific Islands have the appropriate competition models that meet their high performance needs. The IRB Pacific Rugby Cup has continually evolved to achieve just that and our thanks go to the ARU and NZRU for their support in providing high-level opposition in what promises to be a compelling competition."

“We are delighted to be welcoming Japan, hosts of Rugby World Cup 2019, to the competition in what will be a very exciting year for Tier Two nations with Samoa competing in a quadrangular series with South Africa, Italy and Scotland in June, and expanded IRB Pacific Nations Cup featuring Canada and the USA for the first time."

IRB Regional General Manager for Oceania, William Glenwright added: "The IRB invests over £2million each year in the high performance programs of Fiji, Samoa, Tonga and Japan which ensures that the players have access to world class training expertise and facilities. The success of this investment relies heavily on being able to provide these players and coaches with appropriate international competition.”

“The PRC is designed to provide the best locally-based players with access to the highest possible level of competition, by testing them against the future stars of Australian and New Zealand Rugby, to prepare them for the rigours of Test Rugby."

"We have established full-time academies in Fiji, Tonga and most recently Samoa, who now have a state-of-the-art High Performance Centre. These academies provide a daily training environment for elite and potentially elite players, match officials and coaches to obtain scholarships and train in world-class facilities.”

“Through the IRB High Performance investment we have been able to underwrite initiatives that have seen a tangible lift in performance for Pacific Island nations with Samoa and Tonga in particular enjoying a highly successful November 2012 Test schedule."