26 Sep 2008

Taniwha and Makos get a lifeline

6:57 pm on 26 September 2008

The New Zealand Rugby Union has backed down on its proposed restructure of the national provincial competition, handing a reprieve to Northland and Tasman.

Both unions were threatened with relegation down to the Heartland Championship, but will now instead be part of a similar 14-team structure for the next two years.

The unions' heads spent the past two days arguing that relegation from the top flight would be highly damaging to rugby in Northland and Tasman.

The NZRU board says the unions' survival in the Air New Zealand Cup is conditional on them living up to commitments they made to maintain their financial viability, which will be reviewed annually.

There'll also be no changes to the Ranfurly Shield format, although the NZRU will discuss a proposal that the winners of the previous year's Meads Cups will automatically be granted a Shield challenge in the following year as one of the two mandatory challenges.

The second mandatory challenge from a Heartland Championship Provincial Union would be at the discretion of the Holder.