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New national rugby competition for 2007

31/05/2006 08:08:44 PM Comments (0)

A new eight-team national competition to broach the gap between Super 14 and club rugby will begin in Australia next year.

After a three-day workshop involving 70 of the games's key stakeholders, it was decided Australian rugby needed a competition similar to New Zealand's National Provincial Championships and South Africa's Currie Cup, to move ahead.

The national competition will involve three teams from NSW, two from Queensland and one team each from the ACT, Victoria and Western Australia.

It will run from July 28 to October 14.

The primary aim of the competition is to improve the Wallabies and Australian Super 14 teams and provide more opportunities for the better club rugby players.

With the introduction of Super rugby, the club game has suffered in Australia over the past decade with crowds, interest and sponsors well down.

A statement from the stakeholders said the new national series would have minimal impact on the club rugby calendar which would now run from March until July.

The new national competition begins with the Super 14, Australian under-19 and 21 players all available.

Its format will involve teams playing 10-12 matches with the top four teams to play in two semi-finals to decide the finalists.

The NSW and Queensland rugby unions will work with the existing clubs to determine the teams in their states while the Victorian team will include a number of contracted players from the Super 14 franchises, including academy players.

It is understood the NSW Rugby Union had forgone the opportunity to have a fourth team so Victoria could participate and make it a more national competition.

The new competition will cost $2.5 million to administer in 2007 and is expected to run at a loss in its inaugural season - as a consequence it is believed the ARU will withdraw funding from current club competitions.

The ABC has expressed interest in telecasting all matches in the new competition.

The stakeholder statement concluded: "The workshop felt that this is an economically sustainable and commercially attractive competition that will attract sponsors, broadcasters and Rugby fans."

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