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Australian Rugby Union to launch National Rugby Championship in August
The Australian Rugby Union (ARU) has announced that its new nine-team domestic rugby union competition, the National Rugby Championship (NRC), will start in August.
The competition will feature two teams from Queensland, four from New South Wales, and one each from the ACT, Victoria and Western Australia and will include country teams from Queensland and NSW.
The competition will see each team play the other eight teams once over nine weeks, including a bye. The top four teams will then qualify for the finals.
All Super Rugby players will be required to play in the NRC, while Wallabies players will be allocated to a team and will play if available.
The ARU's last attempted a second-tier national rugby competition in 2007. However, the Australian Rugby Championship (ARC) lasted just one season before abandoned after losing almost $5 million.
Introducing the new competition, ARU Chief Executive Bill Pulver said the new NRC was an important element in developing the game in Australia.
In a statement, Pulver explained "for Rugby fans it will provide an opportunity to engage with an elite Rugby competition during the second half of the year, once the Super Rugby competition is completed..
"For players it represents the missing link in their development pathway towards Super Rugby and ultimately Wallaby selection.
"It will also support the ARU's objective to create additional compelling content for broadcasters with a quality local competition to rival New Zealand's (National Provincial Championship) and South Africa's Currie Cup."
The new competition got the green-light last week when the Rugby Union Players Association pledged not to oppose the new competition.
Another obstacle had been the status of bids combined tender bids by Sydney University/Balmain and Randwick/University of NSW, teams that might be expected to dominate the competition.
A combined bid put together by Sydney clubs Gordon, Norths, Warringah and Manly is also seen as a strong contender. The bid is chaired by Gary Flower, the former ARU Chief Executive who championed the ARC, the failure of which is seen to have cost him his job..
The Queensland Rugby Union (QRU), while supportive of the NRC, is believed to have some reservations about the long-term economic sustainability of some of the Sydney franchises but will almost certainly take part in the new series, believing the NRC would have no credibility without a strong Queensland presence.
Teams to compete in the 2014 season are:
• Brisbane City (QRU/Reds)
• Queensland Country (QRU/Reds)
• North Harbour Rays (Manly, Warringah, Gordon and Norths)
• Sydney Stars (Sydney University and Balmain)
• Greater Sydney Rams (West Harbour, Penrith, Parramatta, Eastwood and Southern Districts)
• NSW Country (in partnership with Randwick and Easts)
• University of Canberra Vikings (ACT Rugby/Brumbies, University of Canberra and Tuggeranong Vikings)
• Melbourne Rising (VRU/Rebels)
• Perth Spirit (Rugby WA/Force)
The NRC will kick off in late August following the State Premier Rugby Competitions and will run until the beginning of November.
The competition is supported by Foxtel and FOX SPORTS and at least one match per round will be broadcast live on FOX SPORTS.
7th March 2014 - ARU NAMES NEW GENERAL MANAGER FOR NATIONAL TEAMS AND COMPETITIONS
11th December 2013 - NEW NATIONAL RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP TO LAUNCH IN 2014
12th July 2013 - LIONS GIVE SYDNEY ITS BIGGEST WEEK SINCE THE OLYMPICS
3rd May 2010 - QUESTIONS ON GOVERNMENT’S COMMITMENT TO RUGBY
8th March 2010 - CASH-STRAPPED QUEENSLAND LOOKS TO ARU
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