The ‘soul of New Zealand rugby’, the National Provincial Championship, launched in Auckland today with little more than a week out from the start of the competition.
All 14 provinces were represented by their captains or senior players at the College Rifles Rugby Club. The event which was hosted by Radio Sport’s Nigel Yelden was an opportunity for teams to release their squads for the upcoming season which starts on 17 August when North Harbour host Otago in Albany, a repeat of the championship final. Representatives from the sides then threw paint balloons at their provinces on a map of New Zealand which created much laughter and entertainment in front of media and stakeholders.
New Zealand Rugby Head of Provincial Union Rugby Steve Lancaster said the competition is always a highlight on the rugby calendar as fan gets set to an exciting ten weeks of play.
“This is a special competition that sees seasoned veterans alongside young talent, putting absolutely everything on the line for their jersey, supporters and provinces” he said.
Lancaster said the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians opened the British and Irish Lions tour with a simply outstanding match in Whangarei, showcasing the exciting style of provincial rugby and ‘we can expect more of that in the Mitre10 Cup’ this year.
In the first week is full of traditional matches as Canterbury head to Nelson to face Tasman in a repeat of the premiership final, Taranaki host Waikato for the Ryan Wheeler Memorial Trophy and Counties Manukau will host Auckland in the battle of the Bombays.
The Ranfurly Shield will go on the line again as Canterbury, who currently hold the Log o’ Wood, will host Otago, Southland, Counties Manukau, Waikato and Taranaki throughout the season and will look to challenge the red and blacks. Coincidentally all Canterbury’s challenges this year has all held the Shield in recent years.
Along with the launch of the NPC, the Heartland Championship was also launched showcasing the second and third division teams in New Zealand Rugby.
The Heartland Championship will start a week later on August 26.
To view the full draw visit Draws & Results across the top of this page
All squad lists can be viewed here