The National Rugby Championship, known as the NRC, is Australia's national professional rugby union football competition. The NRC is administered by the Australian Rugby Union (ARU), and is contested by nine teams from around Australia. The NRC is the highest tier of competition below the transnational Super Rugby tournament, which also involves New Zealand and South Africa. The championship provides an important competition for Australian players following the Super Rugby season.
The National Rugby Championship spans eleven weeks from late August, after the completion of the premier club rugby competitions in each state, to early November. A round-robin tournament is played over nine rounds where each team plays each other once. Each team has four home matches and four away matches with one bye. This is followed by the finals rounds consisting of two semi-final matches, contested by the top four teams, and a grand final match to determine the season's champion team.
NRC Competition Launch with Buildcorp MD Tony Sukkar and players from all nine teams.
Buildcorp has the naming rights for the NRC competition. Other partners include Intercontinental Hotels, Qantas, and Allianz, with the Allianz group logo appearing on referees' jerseys through to end of 2016.ASICS are the official apparel supplier and Gilbert is the official supplier of all rugby balls.
The tournament is run by the ARU with the sponsorship of Foxtel. One (or more) of the NRC matches each round is broadcast live via Fox Sports. Arrangements for the streaming of non-broadcast matches are made by the NRC teams. The ARU indicated that the Foxtel broadcast deal for the NRC included the digital rights, but that the streaming of matches not covered on Fox would be available to viewers for free.
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 bids were tendered from teams wanting to participate in the tournament, with nine being accepted. Applicants that were not successfult were advised that they could bid again as the competition matured, as early as 2015.
The National Rugby Championship follows a previous national competition, the Australian Rugby Championship, that was abandoned after the first season in 2007 due to financial losses.
Australia's Super Rugby players participate in the NRC under a capped allocation to ensure that all NRC teams have a mix of players from local development squads and club competitions as well as those with Super Rugby experience. Australian national team players are required for Test match rugby during the NRC season, but each player is allocated to one of the NRC teams and is able to play if released from national duty.