Thursday, January 3, 2013

Argentina open to facing Pacific Island Nations

UAR President Luis Castillo
A dagger through the heart was used by many Fijians, Samoans and Tongans on social media to describe the feeling that the decision of New Zealand to not play against any of them in the next seven years. Last month the CEO of the New Zealand Rugby Union, Steve Tew, said that New Zealand did not have any room for test matches against the Pacific Islands. The comments were of grave concern not only to followers of Pacific Islands rugby but to the global rugby community. It meant that the union in charge of the most powerful team in the history of international rugby and the current World Champions should not be playing against Tier Two teams from its own backyard either at home or away. The IRB region of Oceania is home to two Tier One sides are three Tier Two with Fiji, Samoa and Tonga all struggling to play a sufficient  number of tests while the regions Tier One Unions have packed calenders. 

Despite Fiji having defeated Wales to reach the Quarter Finals of Rugby World Cup 2007 the nation has not hosted New Zealand in 29 years while neither Samoa nor Tonga ever have. Australia has played less against these nations than New Zealand has despite losing against Samoa in Sydney in 2011. Samoa also defeated Wales in 2012 while Tonga defeated France in 2011 and Scotland in 2012. Finding a solution for Fiji, Samoa and Tonga is one of the central issues facing global rugby authorities and a solution is urgently required. Samoa has been playing so well in recent times that it  is ranked eighth in the IRB World Rankings and has seen itself get a favorable draw for Rugby World Cup 2015 while Wales will face both Australia and England. Being in the Top eight does not mean an even number of international matches as Argentina knows all too well after Los Pumas had to endure years of playing as few as five tests until 2012. 

With Argentina in The Rugby Championship it now has a full calender but this does not mean that the UAR will not be adding more matches. UAR President Luis Castillo has said that Argentina is not closed to new possibilities and has acknowledged that Argentina is open to new challenges against the Pacific Islanders. With Argentina drawn with New Zealand and Tonga for Rugby World Cup 2015 it is certainly in Argentina´s best interests to play matches against Fiji, Samoa and Tonga between now and 2015. Castillo confirmed that the rumours that Argentina could be a part of a new tournament involving Fiji, Samoa, Tonga are not fictitious. Should such a competition get off the ground then Argentina´s position as a Tier One Model would be further enhanced as would its position as the ideal country to host Rugby World Cup 2023. 

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