New RaboDirect Pro12 kicks off

The RaboDirect PRO12, rugby's premier professional club competition in Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales, was formally launched at a Media Conference in Dublin's Conrad Hotel on Tuesday.

Players and coaches from all 12 participating teams were joined by rugby legend Andy Irvine, Chairman of RaboDirect PRO12, Roel van Veggel, General Manager of RaboDirect in Ireland, Gert Bouwman, Global Head of Rabobank International Direct Banking and John Feehan, Chief Executive of RaboDirect PRO12 to formally launch the new RaboDirect PRO12 by unveiling the new competition Trophy and welcoming the new title sponsor, RaboDirect.

Speaking at the launch John Feehan, Chief Executive of RaboDirect PRO12 stated that the competition now has a new name , the PRO12, and a new key title sponsor, RaboDirect. He said:

"We are delighted to formally welcome RaboDirect as our new title sponsor alongside our new brand the PRO12. The PRO12 is clearly more than a league, as it also involves Play Off Semi Finals and a showpiece Final, and as such we needed a name that encapsulates both the structure and nature of the competition, more in keeping with the extraordinary growth it has experienced over the last 5 years.

"We are thrilled to secure the support of an international business with the global reputation of the Rabobank Group as this will raise the profile of the RaboDirect PRO12 and enhance the investment in the competition. We look forward to working with Roel and his team in RaboDirect to further develop and grow the RaboDirect PRO12 competition for many years to come."

Roel van Veggel, General Manager of RaboDirect in Ireland said:

"We're absolutely delighted to be embarking on this high profile sponsorship. Rabobank Group, throughout its 100 year history, has always sought to put down firm roots in the communities where it operates. At RaboDirect, the online banking arm of Rabobank - now 6 years in Ireland, we believe that our values of passion, honesty, commitment and responsibility echo the values of this professional competition and the game of rugby union itself and so we're very confident that we've achieved an exceptional fit in securing this sponsorship.

"We're very excited about getting involved in rugby union, a sport that ignites so much passion not only in Ireland but in communities in Italy, Scotland, Wales and around the World. But this isn't our first foray into rugby by any means. Last week we welcomed the RaboDirect Melbourne Rebels, a new team that we sponsor in the Super 15, to Dublin and they are hoping to progress further in that competition next season."

Gert Bouwman, Global Head of Rabobank International Direct Banking said:

"Rabobank Group's expertise in executing sponsorships globally will allow RaboDirect to take this competition to even greater heights. We're looking forward to generating more enthusiasm for the competition, connecting with an even larger audience of people through their love of rugby, strengthening our ties with local communities and demonstrating RaboDirect's firm commitment to our growing number of customers, here in Ireland. We also look forward to using the possibilities to enhance our Rabobank brand in Italy and the UK were we have substantial corporate banking franchises."

?Following the unveiling of the new RaboDirect PRO12 Trophy, 61 cms high and with 8.3 kilos of sterling silver used in its making, Andy Irvine, Chairman of the RaboDirect PRO12, commented that he was particularly glad to see the unique contemporary design of the new Trophy as it will be clearly identifiable as THE trophy in Celtic & Italian rugby which will go 'on tour' to supporters through the 12 clubs and around the 4 countries. He said:

"Our new partnership with RaboDirect marks the start of another big step forward in the growth of this competition. We look forward to working with RaboDirect as well as our existing sponsors - Rhino and Specsavers, with all 12 teams in the 4 countries, with the match officials and with all the media so as to ensure that rugby supporters experience the very best of an ever improving competition."