New Zealand coach Graham Henry has given his enthusiastic approval to the new RBS 6 Nations-style tournament for the Pacific Ocean countries.
The International Rugby Board (IRB) has proposed a tournament, to begin next year, between Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, Japan, Australia A and the Junior All Blacks – the Kiwi second string.
The IRB responded to criticism over a perceived decline in quality in second-tier countries such as Japan and the island nations by creating the new competition as the flagship programme of a new development blueprint for the global game.
The New Zealand Rugby Union were eager for an annual Pacific event after their Australian counterparts raised the prospect of a competition involving their five Super 14 franchises and the islanders.
Speaking from South Africa, where Henry leads his side against the Springboks in their opening Tri-Nations encounter on Saturday, the former Wales and British & Irish Lions coach endorsed the project.
"I think everyone’s a winner," he said. "It’s a very good thing for the Pacific Islands and Japan as well, and it gives New Zealand a competitive tier for the Junior All Blacks."
Planned for June, the new addition to the calendar will not take players from the domestic National Provincial Championship and allow prospective All Blacks an international opportunity.