Australia 'A' to join Pacific Nations Cup
October 19, 2006

Australia A will make its debut in the Pacific Nations Cup in 2007, the Australian Rugby Union announced today.

Inaugurated this year, the Pacific Nations Cup will see Australia A play matches against Tonga, Fiji, Samoa, Japan and the Junior All Blacks during June and July in 2007.

The program also allows Wallaby squad players to continue playing international Rugby while staking their claim for a regular Test spot. For example, this year's Australia A squad was brimming with current Wallabies including:

· Adam Ashley-Cooper

· Al Baxter

· Rodney Blake

· Al Campbell

· Drew Mitchell

· Wycliff Palu

· Tatafu Polota-Nau

· Benn Robinson

· Cameron Shepherd

· Scott Staniforth

· Morgan Turinui

· Josh Valentine

Traditionally the stepping-stone to Wallaby selection, the Australia A program gives players new to the international arena the opportunity to gain experience at this level.

Qantas Wallabies coach John Connolly said the Pacific Nations Cup presents an ideal opportunity for players outside the Wallaby squad to stake their claim for next year's Rugby World Cup in France.

"For players knocking down the door for Wallaby selection, these matches provide a real opportunity to play competitive international Rugby ahead of the Rugby World Cup", he said.

"For the less experienced players, the Pacific Nations Cup will give them a chance to develop their skills against quality international opposition."

Connolly said that the National Competition, due to kick off in 2007, will give many more players the opportunity to kick-start their representative careers and climb the Rugby representative ladder.

"For many players, the National Competition will provide a higher level of representative Rugby and a platform for future Wallaby and Australia A selection", he said.

Australia A will kick-off its Pacific Nations against Tonga on 26 May before playing home matches against Samoa and Japan. They will then face tough away encounters against the Junior All Blacks and Fiji in the final two rounds.

The inclusion of Australia A in the Pacific Nations Cup follows the announcement in August that Australia A will also play matches against Scotland A, Ireland A and Welsh club side Ospreys during the Wallaby Spring Tour next month.

IRB Pacific Nations Cup 2007 schedule

Round 1

Saturday, May 26

Samoa v Junior All Blacks

Tonga v Australia A

Fiji v Japan

Round 2

Saturday, June 2

Australia A v Samoa

Tonga v Japan

Fiji v Junior All Blacks

Round 3

Saturday, May 19 (early date due to pre-existing Test commitments)

Samoa v Fiji

Saturday, June 9

Tonga v Junior All Blacks

Australia A v Japan

Round 4

Saturday, June 16

Japan v Samoa

Fiji v Tonga

Junior All Blacks v Australia A

Round 5

Saturday, June 23

Samoa v Tonga

Fiji v Australia A

Sunday, June 24

Japan v Junior All Blacks

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