31 Jul 2008

Low-key start but much on line in domestic rugby competition

7:22 pm on 31 July 2008

Rugby's provincial championship is underway, overshadowed by the All Blacks' campaign and with shocking weather probably guaranteeing low turnouts.

However there's a lot to play for. It looks as if this will be the final season in the current format, with high player payments and low attendances in some centres behind a drive to cut costs and reduce the number of teams. And a percentage of the decision on which provinces are cut comes down to form.

Two sides with uncertain futures but excellent pre-season form host the opening games, with Northland playing Waikato in Whangarei and Tasman taking on Bay of Plenty in Blenheim.

Tasman beat Auckland last Saturday while Northland recorded three wins from three pre-season games, beating Manawatu, North Harbour and Counties-Manukau.

Tasman's assistant coach Bevan Cadwallader says the coaches and players know there's only one way they can try to affect the coming changes, and that's to win.