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By ARU Media Unit
Australian Rugby Union today announced nine teams will compete in the inaugural season of its new domestic Rugby competition, the National Rugby Championship, which will kick off in August this year.
The competition will include two teams from Queensland, four from New South Wales and one each from the Australian Capital Territory, Victoria and Western Australia, and as part of a deliberate strategy to re-engage with passionate Rugby supporters in regional Australia it will include teams representing Queensland Country and NSW Country.
Australian Rugby Union CEO Bill Pulver said he was delighted that the entire Australian Rugby community has come together to form teams to take part in this exciting new competition.
“The National Rugby Championship is an important strategic development for the growth of Rugby in Australia.”
“For Rugby fans it will provide an opportunity to engage with an elite Rugby competition during the second half of the year, once the Super Rugby competition is completed.
“For players it represents the missing link in their development pathway towards Super Rugby and ultimately Wallaby selection.
“It will also support the ARU’s objective to create additional compelling content for broadcasters with a quality local competition to rival New Zealand’s ITM Cup and South Africa’s Currie Cup.
“Consistent with our commitment to continually enhance the entertainment experience from Rugby, the ARU plans to launch a social media competition inviting Rugby fans to suggest law changes and match day innovations that could form part of this new competition.
“This is an opportunity for our supporters to have their say to create a more innovative and exciting game of Rugby,” Mr Pulver said.
Teams to compete in the 2014 season are:
• Brisbane City (QRU/Reds)
• Queensland Country (QRU/Reds)
• North Harbour Rays (Manly, Warringah, Gordon and Norths)
• Sydney Stars (Sydney University and Balmain)
• Greater Sydney Rams (West Harbour, Penrith, Parramatta, Eastwood and Southern Districts)
• NSW Country (in partnership with Randwick and Easts)
• University of Canberra Vikings (ACT Rugby/Brumbies, University of Canberra and Tuggeranong Vikings)
• Melbourne Rising (VRU/Rebels)
• Perth Spirit (Rugby WA/Force)
Eleven tenders were received and the unsuccessful tenderers have been advised they will be considered for inclusion as the competition matures.
“We have been very impressed with the quality of all the tenders and grateful for the efforts of all involved. Our vision for the future of the NRC involved expansion of the number of teams involved in the coming years and we look forward to welcoming new teams into the competition as soon as 2015,” Mr Pulver said.
The NRC will kick off in late August following the State Premier Rugby Competitions and will run until the beginning of November.
The competition will run for 11 weeks and include eight preliminary rounds, with each team playing four home and four away games, one bye week and finishing with semi-finals and finals.
All Super Rugby players will be required to play in the National Rugby Championship, with a quota system in place to ensure each of the nine teams have a mixture of Super Rugby players and the best up and coming players from their local club competitions.
Qantas Wallabies players will be playing Tests while the NRC is on, but each member of the Wallabies squad will be allocated across the nine teams and will play if they become available.
Tenders for the National Rugby Championship were assessed on a range of factors including financial capacity; venue facilities and infrastructure; professional team staffing structure and environment; commitment to player development; links to Super Rugby clubs; and current or potential fan base.
In assessing the tenders, the NRC Commission drew on the expertise of specialist advisers, including Qantas Wallabies Coach Ewen McKenzie.
The competition is supported by Foxtel and FOX SPORTS and at least one match per round will be broadcast live on FOX SPORTS.