Action begins in North America 4
May 20, 2006

A new era for Rugby Union in North America will begin on Saturday when the inaugural IRB North America 4 competition kicks-off in British Columbia.

Two representative teams from Canada and USA will compete in the tournament which culminates in a Grand Final on July 29th.

"The IRB North America 4 is an exciting new cross-border international representative competition involving around 120 of the best locally-based players from Canada and the USA," said IRB Head of Rugby Services Mark Egan. "It will provide the opportunity for future stars of the game to showcase their ability in a high-intensity, cross-border competition that will provide the perfect platform for players to push for a Test place."

Funded by the IRB to the tune of US $ 1 million as part of the IRB's three-year US $ 50 million global strategic investment programme, the North America 4 competition is designed to increase the overall competitiveness of international rugby in Canada and the USA. Indeed its positioning within alongside the Barclays Churchill Cup and Rugby World Cup 2007 qualifiers in the rugby calendar ensures that both Tier 2 Unions will have unprecedented exposure to international rugby this year.

New teams

The newly-created teams are Canada East, Canada West, USA Falcons and USA Hawks and the tournament will feature 12 games over two legs. The first leg will be in British Columbia, with games on Saturday in Abbotsford, Wednesday at University British Columbia's Thunderbird Stadium, and on May 27 in Victoria. The second leg will be played in Columbus, Ohio, July 22-29 following the completion of the Barclays Churchill Cup.

Anticipation ahead of the tournament has been building and both camps are excited about the potential of the North America 4 in terms of developing and preparing players for the Test arena.

Test opportunities

This weekend's matches and the following four rounds of competition will provide the players with the opportunity to showcase their talents in a highly-competitive environment in front of the observing national coaching staff.

"We will be talking to the North America 4 coaches about how the players respond to being together in a camp environment," said Rugby Canada head coach Ric Suggitt, who plans to select at least 11 players for an important summer of Test rugby including the Barclays Churchill Cup and the crucial Rugby World Cup 2007 qualifiers against USA and Barbados.

The perspective from the USA camp is similar. With the Barclays Churchill Cup starting on June 3rd, Eagles head coach Peter Thorburn and High Performance Manager Alan Solomons will be keeping a close eye on all the action with a view to National side selection as former Tonga coach and USA Falcons head coach Jim Love explains.

"We've got a lot of young guys trying to push themselves through to the national side. It is a development that brings a lot of old heads together with the young guys. It's an exciting blend - we have just got to give it our best shot."

The IRB is committed to increasing the competitiveness of Test rugby and Rugby World Cup and the introduction of a cross-border competition as a massive step towards achieving that goal.

Clear pathway

"The IRB North America 4 is an important developmental tool for USA Rugby," said acting USA Chief Operating Officer. "The cross-border competition completes a clear pathway for some 60 locally-based players from collegiate or Super League rugby level through to the full test arena. Importantly, it will give those players the chance to showcase their talents in a highly-competitive competition environment."

The action kicks-off at 1pm on Saturday afternoon when Canada East and the USA Falcons meet in the first game at the Rotary Stadium, followed by Canada West v USA Hawks at 3pm.

IRB North America 4 Rounds One, Two and Three fixtures:

20 May - Rotary, Abbotsford
1pm Canada East - US Falcons
3pm Canada West - US Hawks

24 May - Thunderbird, University of British Columbia, Vancouver
5:30pm US Hawks - US Falcons
7:30pm Canada West - Canada East

27 May - Centennial Stadium (Victoria)
1:00 pm - Canada East vs. USA Hawks
3:00 pm - Canada West vs. USA Falcons

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