At the invitation of World Rugby, Rugby Australia has committed to sending an Australia A squad to Fiji to participate in the Pacific Nations Cup this July.
The development squad will play three matches against Samoa on 2 July in Suva, Fiji on 9 July in Lautoka, before completing their tournament against Tonga on 16 July – also in Lautoka. All three Pacific Island nations will field their Test teams.
Rugby Australia CEO, Andy Marinos, believes the opportunity for more Super Rugby players to represent against Test nations is an essential part of developing a greater pool of depth for the Wallabies.
“Our High Performance review highlighted a relative lack of game time for the younger, developing professional players in our system,” said Mr Marinos.
“With Super Rugby Pacific, they will likely play around 14 first-class matches in a typical season – not including pre-season or Finals – and some players in NSW and QLD have the opportunity to transfer into Shute Shield and Hospital Cup.
“Alongside working on competition structures that can help to alleviate this relative lack of game time, one of our priorities has been to re-establish Australia A to provide additional top-flight matches.
“This will help to develop a deeper squad of elite players, as well as giving players some representative experience to take back to their Super Rugby Pacific clubs – which can only be a good thing for Australian rugby.”
The return of Australia A also creates an opportunity to help develop Australia’s coaching ranks, with well-regarded emerging coaches being named to lead the side.
Jason Gilmore, the NSW Waratahs’ Defence Coach will act as Head Coach, with Brumbies Attack Coach Rod Seib, the Reds’ Defence Coach Michael Todd, and Rebels Forwards Coach Geoff Parling filling out the coaching staff.
Rugby Australia is committed to the return of Australia A, and the benefits that it can help deliver to the game in this country – and will continue to evaluate opportunities for the programme to play more matches in future.
Australia A will assemble in Sydney on 26 June, before travelling to Fiji.
Match schedule: 2 July – Australia A vs Samoa (Suva) 9 July – Fiji vs Australia A (Lautoka) 16 July – Australia A vs Tonga (Lautoka)