April 9 - A new annual international tournament in Tbilisi, Georgia, has been launched by the International Rugby Board (IRB) as part of their strategy to increase the competition schedule for second tier nations.
The IRB Tbilisi Cup is due to take place in Georgia from June 7 until 16 this year and feature Rugby World Cup 2015 hopefuls Georgia and Uruguay, as well as the South Africa President's XV and Emerging Ireland teams.
The competition in the nation's capital will see teams competing in a round robin format in what is an IRB-funded event.
"This exciting addition of the IRB Tbilisi Cup to the international match schedule is great news for Georgia and Uruguay, who are both striving for Rugby World Cup 2015 qualification," said IRB chairman Bernard Lapasset.
"The addition of Emerging Ireland and the South Africa President's XV ensures a high-calibre competition that will deliver compelling matches while also fulfilling the high performance needs of our Unions.
"Georgians love rugby and I am sure the event will be a huge success for the popularity and profile of Georgian Rugby, the participating Unions and the development of the game worldwide."
With the IRB Tbilisi Cup, IRB Nations Cup, IRB Pacific Nations Cup and a programme of tier one test matches for Japan, USA, Canada and Samoa in the June window, there will now be an unprecedented volume of international matches for the world's up-and-coming teams.
The IRB hope that this will help close the competition gap between the top nations and the second tier.
"Awarding the hosting rights to Georgia for a tournament of this standing is just reward for the outstanding progress that the Union is making on both the development and high performance fronts," said IRB head of competitions and performance Mark Egan.
"Significant investment by the Georgian Government over the past four years has led to the construction of world-class training and match venue facilities in Tbilisi which will be available to the participating teams.
"The inclusion of the South Africa Presidents's XV and Emerging Ireland teams will provide valuable Tier One level opposition to Georgia and Uruguay as they both continue on the Rugby World Cup 2015 qualification pathway."
Georgia has also expressed their delight at hosting their first-ever senior IRB tournament.
"The Georgian Rugby Union is grateful to the International Rugby Board for the decision to organise a full-fledged international tournament in Tbilisi," said Georgian Rugby Union President George Nijaradze.
"This decision, which we see as acknowledgement of recent achievements made by Georgian Rugby, is the greatest challenge for us.
"The IRB Tbilisi Cup will contribute to the further development and popularization of Rugby in Georgia and will internationally promote Georgia as a Rugby nation."
The full match schedule and venues will be announced in the coming weeks.
Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]