National Rugby Championship
|National Rugby Championship|
|Current season or competition:
2014 National Rugby Championship
|Sport||Rugby union football|
|Number of teams||9|
|Broadcast partner||Fox Sports|
The National Rugby Championship, or NRC, is Australia's domestic professional rugby competition that will begin in August 2014, under the Australian Rugby Union. Nine teams from around Australia will compete in the inaugural season. The Championship will be the highest tier of competition below the transnational Super Rugby tournament, which also involves New Zealand and South Africa. It is believed to be an important strategic development for the growth of rugby in Australia, and will provide further competition for non-international players after the Super Rugby season.
Format and sponsorship
The tournament will kick-off in late August, following the State Premier Rugby Competitions and will end in November. The competition will run for eleven weeks, including nine preliminary rounds, where each team will play each other once. These games will be split equally, so that each team has four home games, and four away games with one bye in a season. The preliminary rounds will be followed with semi-finals, contested by the top four teams, and finals to determine the champion of each season.
Buildcorp was announced as the Official Naming Rights Partner of the National Rugby Championship in July 2014. ASICS and Gilbert were named as the suppliers of all match day and training apparel, and match day and training balls, respectively.
The tournament will be run by the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) with the sponsorship of Foxtel and Fox Sports, and at least one match per round will be broadcast live on Fox Sports. Arrangements for the live streaming of other games, either through the Fox Sports website or a dedicated NRC site, are being considered. The ARU's Andrew Fagan confirmed that Fox have the digital rights as part of their NRC broadcast rights deal, but that these streamed games will be available for free:
Whichever [streaming] option we go with, it will be free access,” Fagan said. “The core objective of this competition is to provide high level rugby in a very accessible way, whether that’s the ticket prices for the matches themselves, or for streaming for those who don’t have Fox Sports.—Andrew Fagan, ARU General Manager, National Teams and Rugby Operation, 2014.
In December 2013, the ARU announced that Australia would get a third-tier competition in line with South Africa’s Currie Cup and New Zealand's ITM Cup. Eleven tenders were received for teams to take part in the tournament, with nine being accepted. The unsuccessful applicants were advised that they could be considered again as the competition matures, as early as 2015.
The National Rugby Championship follows a previous attempt at a third tier competition, the Australian Rugby Championship, that was abandoned after the first season in 2007 due to financial losses.
All Super Rugby players will be required to play in the NRC and a quota system is 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. Australian national team players will be playing Test match rugby while the NRC is being held. However, each member of the national team will be allocated across the nine teams and will play if they become available.
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