Australian Rugby Shield
|No. of teams||8|
|Last champion(s)||NSW Country|
|Most titles||NSW Country (4 titles)|
The Australian Rugby Shield or the ARC, is a now defunct national rugby union tournament that was launched by the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) in 2000. The competition was intended to unearth new talent outside of the existing rugby strongholds of Sydney and Brisbane. The competition was suspended after the 2008 season, and has thus far not been revived.
The ARC tournament was an important step in the development of rugby union in Australia, and provided an opportunity for the ARU to identify and unearth talented players nationally. It provided regional teams and developing unions with a regular schedule to compete against each other at a higher level than would normally be possible within their individual states or territories.
Conducted under rules and regulations similar to the Super 14, the competition aimed to assist players, coaches, managers and referees in their professional development. It provided a pathway to full representative level including education in coaching, selecting and refereeing.
The Australian Rugby Shield was first contested in 2000, with six teams playing a single round robin over five weekends and the top two teams playing in the final. The teams in the inaugural season were the Adelaide Black Falcons, Darwin Mosquitoes, Melbourne Axemen, New South Wales Country Cockatoos, Perth Gold, and Queensland Country Heelers. The New South Wales and Queensland Country teams met in the final, played as the curtain-raiser to the Bledisloe Cup match held at Stadium Australia in front of a record rugby crowd of 109,874. Queensland Country won in an upset, 23-17.
New South Wales Country went on to win the next two titles, before Perth claimed their first Australian Rugby Shield in 2003. A first-past-the-post system was put in place in 2004, eliminating the requirement for a final. In 2006, two additional teams were added, the Tasmania Jack Jumpers and the ACT & Southern NSW Vikings team that won the Australian Rugby Shield on their first attempt. The competition was split into two pools with a cross-pool final series added, and contracted Super Rugby and academy players were excluded.
In 2007, the tournament reverted to a 6-team home-and-away round-robin tournament, without Perth and the Vikings. These two teams were excluded as the ARU determined that the local competitions were sufficient to foster talent for the new Australian Rugby Championship teams, the Perth Spirit and Canberra Vikings, respectively.
At the end of 2008, and citing the difficult economic environment, the ARU declared that the 2009 Australian Rugby Shield would be suspended. The involvement of the Australia A team in the Pacific Nations Cup was also cancelled.
The competition was broadcast on national television by the digital channel ABC2. It showcased two of the Australian Rugby Shield matches each round.
- Canberra Vikings
- Adelaide Black Falcons
- Darwin Mosquitoes
- Melbourne Axemen
- New South Wales Country Cockatoos
- Perth Gold
- Queensland Country Heelers
- Tasmania Jack Jumpers
- 2000 Queensland Country Heelers
- 2001 New South Wales Country Cockatoos
- 2002 New South Wales Country Cockatoos
- 2003 Perth Gold
- 2004 New South Wales Country Cockatoos
- 2005 Perth Gold
- 2006 ACT & Southern NSW Vikings
- 2007 Melbourne Axemen
- 2008 New South Wales Country Cockatoos
- 2009 Not played
- Australian Rugby Championship (ARC) (defunct)
- Australian Provincial Championship (APC) (defunct)
- Super Rugby
- "Shield axing leaves Cockatoos perched high and dry". Daily Liberal. 7 January 2009. Archived from the original on 25 May 2014. Retrieved 25 May 2014.
- "Australia A out of 2009 Pacific Nations Cup". The Roar. 18 December 2008. Archived from the original on 19 December 2008. Retrieved 14 May 2014.
- Australia A dumped from Pacific Nations Cup[dead link]