(Berkeley, California) 26 March 1999 -- Japan's Seiko Epson Corporation signed on as title sponsor of the Pacific Rim Championship, lending further momentum to the tournament's rise in the ranks of world rugby.
The recently expanded six-team tournament will be known as the Epson Cup. The agreement is a one-year deal, according to Seiko Epson and Pacific Rim officials, who did not disclose financial terms.
Last November, the Pacific Rim admitted Fiji, Samoa, and Tonga, which join original members Canada, Japan, and the United States to boost the tournament's competitive stature. All six teams are ranked within the top 16 in the world, and five (including the USA) have already qualified for October's World Cup in Great Britain.
In October, the Pacific Rim won 400,000 pounds a year for three years from the International Rugby Board to facilitate the expansion. The move came as part of the Dublin-based IRB's efforts to promote international competition among so-called developing rugby nations.
Kicking off its fourth year in May, the Epson Cup is seen as an important precursor to the upcoming world's championship.
"Epson's involvement will certainly boost the Pacific Rim's global commercial profile, just as this year's addition of Fiji, Samoa, and Tonga to original members Canada, Japan, and the United States is sure to improve the tournament's competitive level," said Pacific Rim Championship chairman Terry Fleener.
"Naturally, we are delighted with this development before the start of the 15-match tournament on May 1," said Stephen Baines, chief executive officer of the International Rugby Board.
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