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Last Updated: Thursday, 12 January 2006, 23:44 GMT
Wallabies skip Pacific tournament
Samoa's Alesana Tuilagi tackles Australia's Stephen Larkham
Australia has decided not to send a team to the new International Rugby Board summer tournament set up to improve the game in the Pacific region.

The Junior All Blacks, New Zealand's second XV, will take on Japan, Samoa, Fiji and Tonga but Australia want to revamp their domestic game instead.

"This would have a bearing on player availability so Australia will not take part," said the IRB's Bob Tuckey.

"It's disappointing but the competition promises to be a high quality one."

The five team tournament will be staged each summer for the next three years, with the teams playing each other home and away before the top two play meet in the final.

In recent years, the Australian and New Zealand rugby unions have come in for criticism for poaching players from the Pacific Islands to play for their own teams.

The 2003 World Cup in Australia was a huge financial success but several of the smaller rugby-playing nations claimed they were treated like second-class citizens.

The new tournament is part of a 28m IRB investment programme for developing countries.

"This competition presents a marvellous opportunity for the 60 best locally-based players in each union to gain experience in a higher level competition and press their claims for national selection", said Tuckey.




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