Thu 4 Aug 2022 | 11:08

New era for NPC

New era for NPC
Thu 4 Aug 2022 | 11:08
New era for NPC
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PREVIEW: A new era of New Zealand’s National Provincial Championship kicks off in Palmerston North this Friday.

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Manawatū hosts Canterbury, in the first match of the 2022 season.

New Zealand Rugby General Manager of Community Rugby, Steve Lancaster said there was a buzz in the provinces ahead of an action-packed opening weekend that featured the welcome return of Auckland, North Harbour and Counties Manukau.

“It’s been a disruptive couple of years for provincial rugby, with COVID sidelining our Auckland-based teams last year and fans restricted from attending matches in many local communities,” Lancaster said.

“The start of 2022 feels like a fresh start in many ways, and you sense that energy is going to flow over onto the field with some fantastic rugby.

“The NPC retains a special place in the hearts and minds of many New Zealanders and we think the new format, which will see all 14 teams compete for one trophy, will only enhance the traditional rivalries that make it such a great competition,” Lancaster said.

The new NPC format features all 14 teams playing for one title for the first time since 2010 with the teams seeded into two conferences.

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Manawatū host Canterbury in the first match of the season in Palmerston North on Friday, but arguably the feature of the opening weekend is the ‘Battle of the Bridge’ between Auckland and North Harbour, who play at Eden Park on Saturday.

The other Saturday matches see Counties Manukau up against Otago, while last year’s Premier champions Waikato play Hawke’s Bay.

Lancaster noted five of the seven first round matches were afternoon kick-offs, a feature of the 2022 schedule.

“There are no COVID restrictions at our venues, 52 day-time kick-offs and a number of matches being taken to smaller venues around the provinces, so it’s a great opportunity for families and communities to connect, enjoy some rugby and support their province.”

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Sunday sees 2021 Championship winners Taranaki against Northland at Pukekura Park, and Tasman versus Southland at Lansdowne Park, while Wellington plays Bay of Plenty.

Round One comes full circle back to Palmerston North on Wednesday, where Manawatū completes its ‘storm’ week against Auckland.

 

PV: 5
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