Internationals to be hosted in North Wales
Samoa have been handed a boost to preparations for their Millennium Stadium clash with Wales this Autumn with the news they will face Canada in the inaugural IRB International Rugby Series at Eirias, Colwyn Bay, a week earlier, on Friday, 9 November.
A major coup for the home of North Wales rugby sees the South Sea Islanders take on the Cannucks in the second fixture of back-to-back matches at the 6,000 capacity venue, which start with Russia against USA (kick-off 18.00).
Just over a week later, on Saturday 17 November, another double-header comes to town when Tonga face USA (18.00) followed by Canada versus Russia, with the fixtures being seen as a major boost for rugby development plans in the area by the Welsh Rugby Union.
Samoa head to the Welsh capital on Friday, 16 November for the clash with coach Rob Howley’s side for the second match of their own four match series (Wales begin the Dove Men Challenge with an opening clash against Argentina before taking on Samoa, then New Zealand and Australia on successive weekends).
The Autumn Series is already a tough prospect for Wales, with the Pumas growing in stature during their debut season in the Rugby Championship and the size of the task against the Wallabies and All Blacks unquestioned – and now Samoa can ensure they will be fully up to speed with international rugby by the time they get to Cardiff.
But Welsh rugby bosses know Howley and his side will not shy away from the challenge and they are particularly pleased with the news that Eirias has been recognised as an international venue of note by the IRB.
Rupert Moon, WRU General Manager of the North Wales Development Region said: “There is a huge appetite for rugby in North Wales and to have an international series like this at Eirias is a massive shot in the arm for the venue.
“We will get a first look at Samoa the week before they take on Wales in Cardiff and will also have the privilege of watching some great players from Canada, Russia and Tonga. North Wales will have a real international flavour over the course of this IRB International Rugby Series and it is a great compliment to Eirias that it has been chosen to host a series of matches of this pedigree.”
WRU Head of Rugby Joe Lydon said: “We are delighted that North Wales and specifically Eirias has been selected as the venue for these international games. We are extremely grateful to our colleagues at the IRB for recognising the hard work that has gone into creating a Rugby venue in the north which is capable of hosting matches of this stature.
“Our recent experience of hosting Wales U20 Six Nations home matches at Eirias proved there was a tremendous following for Rugby in this area. We are certain the rugby public of North Wales will fully support this initiative and give the visiting teams a great welcome.”
Funded by the International Rugby Board (IRB) and supported by the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) and Conwy County Borough Council, the matches in Wales form part of an unprecedented programme of 2012 IRB International Rugby Series matches between Tier 2 and Tier 3 nations aimed at increasing competitiveness looking ahead to Rugby World Cup 2015 in England.
Cllr Graham Rees from Conwy County Borough Council said: “We’re proud that we’ve been able to secure these exciting fixtures for Eirias. It’s clear there are many fans and enthusiastic spectators here in North Wales and we’re pleased to be able to offer the facilities for everyone to enjoy top flight Rugby.”
These matches are in addition to the games between Tier 1 and Tier 2/3 nations within the 2012-2019 international tours and test schedule which has increased opportunities for emerging Rugby powers to play the world’s best teams in June and November.
Other Unions involved in the 2012 International Rugby Series are Chile, Fiji, Georgia, Japan, Portugal, Romania, Uruguay.
IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset said: "The introduction of the IRB International Rugby Series is an exciting and important development for Rugby worldwide and underlines the IRB’s commitment to assisting Tier 2 and 3 Unions access a competition schedule that meets their strategic high performance needs and delivers IRB World Rankings opportunities."
"We are delighted that Colwyn Bay is going to host these matches and I would like to thank the WRU and Conwy County Borough Council for their desire to bring the matches to Wales. I am sure that the fans will be in for a treat with the prospect of four highly-competitive matches involving some of the most exciting players in the Game."
Tickets to watch the international action at Eirias on the first two weekends in November are available via www.venuecymru.co.uk