Friday, June 5, 2009 - Submitted by Churchill Cup - Dave Barton
MIKE DUNAFON today officially launched the 2009 Churchill Cup, saying: "In the city of Glendale, we speak 13 different languages - and rugby speaks all of those."
The Mayor Pro-Tem was joined by a cast of officials from around the Denver metro area in welcoming international rugby to Glendale for the seventh Churchill Cup which kicks kick off on Saturday, June 6.
Dunafon said: "Rugby is a global sport that brings about the development of a worldwide sport culture unlike any other."
Infinity Park's original rugby visionary, Dunafon stood among a group that including British Consul General Kevin Lynch, Mayor of Glendale Larry Harte, Commerce City Mayor Paul Natale and Denver Sports Board Manager Steve McConahey - who have each played a role in bringing the tournament to Colorado.
USA Rugby CEO Nigel Melville also welcomed the worldly guests to an exciting three weeks and nine games of rugby at Infinity Park and Dick's Sporting Goods Park.
Now soaring to a playing base of more than 85,000, the host nation looks to share this global game with a new crowd in Colorado from June 6 through finals day on June 21.
However, Melville remained tight-lipped about picking any favorites: "I wish every team success in this year's Churchill Cup - may the best team win."
With last year's results in mind, the defending champion England Saxons hope to repeat as the best team in 2009.
Said Saxons head coach Stuart Lancaster: "I think from our point of view, it's a great opportunity to try and retain the trophy. What has happened in the past is history and we're excited for our first opportunity to play Argentina on Saturday. Obviously, we're pleased being the holders of the trophy and we hope to get the chance to win again."
England mounts its 2009 Churchill Cup campaign versus the Argentina Jaguars at 2.15pm (MST).
After missing out on the Plate to Ireland A in last year's finals, Jaguars head coach José Orengo hopes this year's Argentina side fares better than the last: "We face a big challenge against England but we hope to have better games this year because of better preparation. The Churchill Cup is a very important opportunity for us. We have a lot of new players getting international experience."
Left without the bulk of its veterans who are fulfilling their professional club obligationsn in France, Georgia must field a younger, less experienced side versus Canada in the second match (4.30pm kickoff).
"It's an honor to participate in a big tournament like the Churchill Cup and we're very thankful to the IRB for including us," said George Nijharadze, President of the Georgia Rugby Union.
"The team is far from our top squad, but we have a lot of young guys here to show what they've got on the international stage."
After playing countless games versus the same competition, including the likes of Russia, Germany and Romania, the Georgian National Team is looking forward to testing itself against new opposition.
Georgia team manager Vasil Abashidze said: "Every year we always play the same teams, so we're looking forward to the great development opportunities of playing against Canada and Ireland."
Canada heads into the match against Georgia on the heels of a loss, despite a competitive showing versus Wales last week, and a test versus Ireland earlier in May.
Canada manager Des Lynch describes the team's overall mood as "cautiously optimistic".
"We didn't win our last two matches (against Ireland and Wales), but a lot of good stuff came from those games," Lynch said. "We have the utmost respect for the 13th ranked Georgia team and we're currently ranked No. 15 in the world."
Tickets for the 2009 Churchill Cup are currently on sale through www.tickethorse.com and www.churchillcuptickets.com.
Churchill Cup schedule
Pool A Canada Georgia Ireland A
Pool B Argentina Jaguars England Saxons USA
Fixtures (kick off times local) Saturday June 6 Infinity Park, Glendale England Saxons v Argentina Jaguars (2.15pm) Canada v Georgia (4.30pm)
Wednesday June 10 Infinity Park, Glendale Canada v Ireland A (4.30pm) USA v Argentina Jaguars (7pm)
Sunday June 14 Infinity Park, Glendale USA v England Saxons (1pm) Georgia v Ireland A (3.30pm)
Sunday June 21 Dick's Sporting Goods Park Churchill Cup finals (12.05pm, 2.30pm, 4.45pm)