(Honolulu, Hawaii) 22 November 1998 -- It's all systems go for 1999's expanded Pacific Rim Championship.
Meeting this weekend in Honolulu, Canada, Fiji, Japan, Samoa, Tonga, and the United States concluded arrangements for next year's revamped competition. Topping the list of agreed details are the schedule and the appointment of a commercial agent.
The 1999 Pacific Rim will open on the first weekend of May, with Japan hosting defending champion Canada in Tokyo. The 15-match round-robin program wraps up nine weeks later with the Canadians visiting Tonga and Samoa traveling to Fiji.
Next year's schedule calls for the fixtures to be reversed.
Five of the six Pacific Rim teams have already qualified for 1999's Rugby World Cup. Tonga aims to make it through the repechage round that begins early next year.
Also this weekend, the Pacific Rim directors met with Tri Pacific, who will be the exclusive worldwide sponsorship and broadcasting agency for the Pacific Rim Championship for the next five years, to plan the commercial approach. The three-part consortium comprises John Taylor International (London), J. Sakazaki Marketing (Tokyo), and Pacific Rim Rugby (Auckland).
Tri Pacific's involvement builds on last month's welcome news that the International Rugby Board will invest 400,000 pounds per year for the next three years, as part of its efforts to encourage the worldwide development of rugby.
Hong Kong, an original member of the Pacific Rim, announced its decision to withdraw for competitive reasons. "Hong Kong has had increasing difficulty in fielding a team of sufficient strength to provide quality opposition to the other participants," said David Roberts, Hong Kong's representative to the meeting.
"It is with great regret we have withdrawn. However, we believe strongly in the viability of the tournament, and Hong Kong wishes the other unions every success in the tournament."
Also this weekend, the tournament's directors chose Terry Fleener of the United States as the Pacific Rim's chairman. Each member union and the IRB hold one seat on the tournament's board.
"On the heels of last month's commitment from the IRB, finalizing a match schedule and confirming Tri Pacific's involvement are two more big steps toward kicking off our expanded league next May," Fleener said. "It's full speed ahead for what I think will be a very competitive and exciting competition."
"I am delighted with the initiative shown by the member unions and the ready spirit of cooperation," commented the IRB's chief executive, Stephen Baines. "All appears well for a successful tournament in 1999."
1999 Pacific Rim Fixture List
|Saturday, May 16||United States||Tonga|
|Saturday, May 22||United States||Fiji|
|Saturday, June 12||United States||Japan|
|Saturday, June 19||Canada||United States|
|Saturday, June 26||Samoa||United States|