Argentina not guaranteed of joining TriNations yet

Australian Rugby boss John O’Neill says that Argentina’s Pumas playing in the TriNations from 2012 is not set in stone yet and they still have to comply with a number of conditions.

O’Neill’s comments come after International Rugby Board chairman Bernard Lapasset said earlier in the week that they would be backing Argentina financially with a one-off contribution of $US2 million (NZ$2.6m) so the Pumas could have regular matches against top-quality opposition.

However SANZAR board member and Australian Rugby Union chief executive John O’Neill says that while he is pleased to hear of the IRB backing more work was needed to get them into the tournament.

In particular O’Neill said that amendments will have to be made to IRB regulations that will ensure that European clubs allow Argentina’s players to be released for the tournament.

Most of Argentina’s players play in Europe and it was first thought that they may be better suited to play in the Six Nations but that was a short lived idea as Argentina are a Southern Hemisphere team.

“We’ve made good progress, but it’s not time to pop the champagne corks,” O’Neill told the Sydney Morning Herald.

“SANZAR have always accepted bringing Argentina into an expanded Tri Nations is a good idea. But that is only based on conditions being satisfied.

“An important condition revolves around the financials. We do not want to be any worse off than we are under the current format.”

“We went to the IRB with the financial difference it would be to bring Argentina in, which resulted in the IRB putting in more than $US2 million a year.

“That doesn’t fully compensate the SANZAR unions, but it goes pretty close. All credit to the IRB for doing that.”

But it was as crucial that there was “certainty that the Argentinian team will be their best team”.

The expanded tournament would be played between August and October after the Super15 and this is when the Northern Hemisphere season starts.

“Currently IRB regulation number nine about the availability of players for international duty has various windows, including for the Six Nations and for June inbound tours to the southern hemisphere, but they haven’t dedicated a window for the Argentinian players so that they can rely on the clubs releasing them,” O’Neill said.

“At this stage they are relying on the good grace of the clubs and we’re not convinced that’s enough certainty.”

“We are saying to the IRB that we can’t go from a very successful Tri Nations to a Four Nations home and away if Argentina can’t have a watertight position on ensuring their best players are available.

“It’s a long way from Buenos Aires to Auckland to Sydney to Johannesburg, and for all the costs that we incur in going into this Four Nations , as well as convincing the broadcasters that it will be as good as the Tri Nations, well I do not want to take that punt unless the IRB not only provides the money, but also the regulatory framework to make sure the Pumas are at full strength.”

SANZAR officials will lobby the IRB in Dublin later this month.

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