Organisers of the Tri-Nations series officially handed Argentina an invitation to join the competition from 2012. The Pumas will join Australia, New Zealand and South Africa in the elite southern hemisphere rugby tournament.
AFP - Southern hemisphere rugby chiefs on Monday moved to revitalise the Tri-Nations series by handing Argentina a long-awaited invitation to form a "Four Nations" championship from 2012.
The move, just days after South Africa wrapped up the 14th Tri-Nations title, is conditional on Argentina sending their best players and confirming financial arrangements with SANZAR, the tournament's organisers.
"To have the Pumas ... 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," SANZAR chief Andy 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."
Argentina, who are ranked sixth and finished third at the 2007 World Cup, have been seeking entry into an elite tournament but have so far been unable to join the Tri-Nations or Europe's Six Nations.
South Africa, New Zealand and Australia Rugby (SANZAR) said it would also have to consult with its broadcasters, with whom it is renegotiating contracts.
In the new format, each team would play the others home and away, making a total of six matches and 12 for the tournament overall from mid-August to mid-October. Currently, the Tri-Nations teams play the others three times each.
Argentinian rugby chief, Porfirio Carreras, called the offer "momentous" for his country and pledged to work with SANZAR to bring the Four Nations into being.
"We are very much looking forward to working with our partners in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa to secure our place in the best competition in world rugby in 2012," he said.
Former captain Agustin Pichot said Argentina now had an "historic" opportunity to confirm themselves among rugby's best teams.
"I can't express the joy of myself and the team that has been working on this project to get to this point," he said.
"We are delighted to have the chance to become a great rugby nation and to play in top-level international rugby and we are committed to working with SANZAR to meet the conditions."
Australian rugby's top official John O'Neill urged Argentina to work hard to meet the conditions.
"Australia is excited by the possibility of having the Pumas in a Four Nations championship," he said.
"It is important therefore, with a conditional invitation on the table, for Argentina to keep moving forward and satisfying the necessary conditions."
SANZAR is also expanding the Super provincial competition to 15 teams from 2011 in a bid to maintain interest, with the race narrowing to bids from Melbourne and South Africa's Eastern Cape.
South Africa beat New Zealand 32-29 on Saturday to claim their fourth Tri-Nations crown and first since 2004.
Date created : 2009-09-14