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WR Announces New Comp for US, Canada, Japan, Pacific Teams

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WR Announces New Comp for US, Canada, Japan, Pacific Teams

USA playing Japan in 2015. David Barpal photo.

World Rugby has confirmed the formation of a new competition for teams in the Pacific.

This new competition is familiar to those who know their rugby history as it is the same as the latter iteration of the old Pacific Rim championship, which ran from 1996 to 2001.

The initial Pacific Rim Championship featured the USA, Canada, Japan, and Hong Kong, with Hong Kong allowed easier residency rules so they could field a competitive side. Each team played the other twice, with the team at the top of the standings being the winner. In 1999, with World Rugby's strong suggestion, Samoa, Fiji, and Tonga were added and Hong Kong dropped, leading to a six-team competition in which every team played the other once. The cost of travel for the Pacific Island teams meant that by 2001 this was a shortened event, with Japan hosting themselves, the winner of USA vs Canada, and the top two Island teams in a semifinal-final format. 

That was the death knell for the competition and it was discontinued after that.

While other sanctioned events, such as the Churchill Cup, the Super Powers Cup, and the Americas Rugby Championship have come and gone, the logic of a competition for teams around the Pacific Rim has never diminished. It was brought back in 2015 but again financial and logistical issues intervened.

So it is that the new Pacific Nations Cup will be launched in 2024. This has been announced in conjunction with World Rugby being a bit more formal in what player-release windows are (how long and when). The Northern Hemisphere and Southern Hemisphere share a release window in November, but have separate release windows for the second period of test matches. The NH window is in February and March, but the USA's weather and schedule actually fits better with the Southern Hemisphere release window in August and September—this is true of Canada also, while Japan is flexible.

(The NH window interrupts Major League Rugby and also undercuts some of the value of US and Canadian players playing in Europe, where availability during the SIx Nations is useful to their employers.)

So the 2024 Pacific Nations Cup will be held in August and September. It will feature two pools of three teams with a North American/Japan pool and a Pacific Islands pool. Every team will host a game. Those games will seed the teams for the playoff event (two semifinals, and then a final, 3rd-4th game, and a 5th-6th game), which will then feature three games hosted in Japan in 2024 and USA in 2025. The USA and Japan will be the only hosts for the finals.

That's because a lot of Japanese money is likely to be a part of this event, and with the USA hosting the 2031 Rugby World Cup, being a host of a couple of these events is good practice. In addition, as reported here>>, World Rugby is getting more involved in running USA Rugby events, giving USA Rugby a more secure payout for these events while World Rugby can work on making rugby pay off even bigger (for them) in the United States market.

“We have seen at this Rugby World Cup just how the performance nations need certainty of regular access to top-level competition to be able to build, grow and deliver on the world stage," said World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont. "This Pacific Nations Cup competition helps address that need as we look to reshape the global calendar to deliver greater opportunity, certainty and equity. By 2026, these teams will have unprecedented high-level competition access.” 

”We are on the side of growth and this tournament is a key pillar in a wider strategy," added World Rugby Chief Executive Alan Gilpin. "Combined with the proposed new two-division global competition model from 2026 and cross-over fixtures against high performance unions, performance unions could be playing an unprecedented number of annual fixtures from 2026. Hosting the grand final in the USA every two years is at the heart of our strategy to grow rugby visibility, accessibility and relevance on the road to Rugby World Cup 2031 and 2033. We will be making some big announcements on this in the coming months.” 

For all of the teams involved, this can help formalize what they are doing and when. This was strongly hinted at by USA Rugby CEO in the RMA podcast in September (link here). Assemblies can be longer or more frequent if teams know when they are playing and unions know what they are spending their money on. Fans like games that lead to something, and teams need tough games. At the moment, the USA and Canada are trying to get back to World Cup qualification level (which will be a bit easier in the future, but still). 

How the USA faired in the old Pacific Rim:

1996 (home team listed second)
Canada 12 USA 19
USA 20 Canada 24
USA 19 Hong Kong 22
USA 18 Japan 24
Hong Kong 23 USA 42
Japan 5 USA 74

USA 12 Canada 53
USA 9 Hong Kong 46
USA 20 Japan 12
Hong Kong 14 USA 17
Canada 22 USA 11

USA 38 Japan 27
USA 25 Hong Kong 43
USA 15 Canada 17
Canada 37 USA 3
Japan 25 USA 21
Hong Kong 17 USA 27

Tonga 10 USA 30
Fiji 14 USA 25
Japan 47 USA 31
USA 18 Canada 17
USA 20 Camoa 27

USA 36 Japan 21
Canada 25 USA 34
USA 21 Fiji 37
USA 6 Tonga 29
Samoa 19 USA 12

USA 10 Canada 19