21 Jun 2009

NZ rugby competition structure revamped

3:58 pm on 21 June 2009

The New Zealand Rugby Union has unveiled its new structure for domestic provincial rugby.

It will reduce the current 14 teams playing for the Air New Zealand Cup to a 10-team Premier Division.

Below that will be a Division One competition, and beneath that a continuation of the Heartland Championship, which operates now.

The changes will be in place by 2011, the union says, subject to development of a Division One competition which is "meaningful, sustainable and attractive".

Rugby Union chief executive Steve Tew says the new structure will be more affordable. He says there is still plenty of work to be done in nailing down the details, including how to ensure the Division One competition is meaningful.

The plan's principles state the teams must include Super Rugby players, and the competition must have a stand-alone time frame, feature a full round-robin and have both promotion and relegation built into it.

Northland optimistic

The Northland Rugby Union says it expects to be among those named in the domestic Premier Division beginning in 2011.

Northland's chair Andrew Golightly says the union expects to remain among the provincial elite.

He says it's essential that Northland remains among the top 10 teams and he sees it as an achievable goal.