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Argentina invited to join TriNations




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Argentina has been invited to join World Cup champion South Africa, Australia and New Zealand in an expanded Four Nations rugby series from 2012.

SANZAR, the group which runs international and provincial tournaments involving South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, said Monday it has extended a conditional invitation for Argentina to join the established Tri-Nations countries after the next World Cup.

The officials said Argentina will be asked to guarantee the participation of their best players to play in the Four Nations, and that Argentinian players will be given the opportunity to play in the Super 15 tournament on club teams from South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.

The format for the FourNations would see each team playing on a home-and-away basis – six matches per team and 12 matches overall.

Andy Marinos, acting managing director of SA Rugby and chief executive of SANZAR, said Argentina would provide a contrast in playing style to the three existing teams.

“To have the Pumas, third at Rugby World Cup 2007 and currently ranked sixth in the world, join with the three top-ranked international teams in world rugby will be exciting for fans, players, sponsors and broadcasters across our four countries and beyond,” Marinos said.

“They play a different style to the All Blacks, Springboks and Wallabies and their inclusion will see the Tri-Nations evolve to be a truly southern hemisphere championship.”

The Four Nations would be played from mid-August (following the end of the new Super rugby competition) for an eight- or nine-week period until early to mid-October. In a Rugby World Cup year, an abbreviated format will be played through July and August.

Porfirio Carrera, president of the Union Argentina de Rugby (UAR) called the invitation a “momentous time for rugby” in his country.

Agustin Pichot, captain of the Pumas at the 2007 Rugby World Cup and now a member of Argentine rugby’s high performance board, said the decision will mean an increased level of interest in the sport in his country.

“We are delighted to have the chance to become a great rugby nation and to play in top-level international rugby,” Pichot said.

“This exciting development will be vital to grow the game in Argentina. This is historic and everyone in Argentina should be proud.”

The Australian Rugby Union said in a statement it has encouraged Argentina to continue the “hard work required” to meet SANZAR financial conditions that would allow the Pumas to play in the Tri-Nations.

“Argentina has shown commitment, passion and a work ethic to date that highlights their desire to have the Pumas playing at the highest level possible on a consistent basis,” ARU chief executive John O’Neill said.

“It is important therefore, with a conditional invitation on the table, for Argentina to keep moving forward and satisfying the necessary conditions.”

Argentina played its first international rugby match in 1910 against a touring British Isles team. It is has competed in all six World Cup tournaments played since 1987, with its best finish coming in a run to the semifinals in France two years ago.

The most elite of the Argentine players have contracts with European clubs, but the Pumas have had limited exposure to tournament-style international competition.

The top six European countries play an annual Six Nations tournament, which was established long before SANZAR turned independent tours by southern teams into an annual Tri-Nations tournament in the 1990s.

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