Rugby Cup returns to NPC
NEWS: One of the most iconic figures of provincial rugby – the Rugby Cup – returns to New Zealand's national competition and will be the silverware presented to the winners of this year's National Provincial Championship.
The newly-restored Rugby Cup, which was last presented in 2005 to the winners of the NPC, Auckland, took pride of place today as 14 provincial head coaches converged on Eden Rugby Club to mark the launch of this year;s competition.
The Rugby Cup was reunited with Tuck J Waaka, the former Bay of Plenty captain, who was the first man to lift it back in 1976. It will now be awarded to the winners of the NPC Premiership Final to be played on Saturday, October 29 after an 11-week competition involving 76 matches across New Zealand.
New Zealand Rugby Chief Strategy and Operations Officer Nigel Cass, said the NPC plays a vital role in the development of the New Zealand's best sporting talent and continues to hold an important place in the rugby calendar.
"The NPC brings out the very best in provincial rivalry and is unique because of its links to the past and strong focus on the future of the game in New Zealand.
"There are always plenty of surprises during the season, and each game will be fiercely contested and no doubt some exciting new talent will emerge during the competition.
"Each year we strive to improve the quality of rugby and the new breakdown laws we'll be trialling are designed to make the game safer to play, easier to understand and more entertaining to watch.
"Our focus once again will be on providing fun, family-friendly entertainment, with at least one game in each provincial union giving kids the opportunity to eat for free. Our players of the future will run the ball onto the field at the start of every game and each home team will be available to sign autographs after the final whistle.
"The rich history of provincial rugby is passed on through stories of great matches between fierce rivals and the Ranfurly Shield is integral to that legacy. The Log o’ Wood remains the most cherished trophy in domestic rugby and another chapter in its colourful 114-year existence will be written over the coming weeks."
The competition kicks off in Albany as North Harbour take on Counties Manukau at QBE Stadium on Thursday, August 18, with Northland hosting Manawatu at Toll Stadium the following day.
Saturday sees Bay of Plenty play Taranaki at Tauranga Domain, before the long-awaited rematches of last year's Championship and Premiership Finals as Hawke's Bay face Wellington at Napier's McLean Park, followed by the evening clash between 2015 champions Canterbury and runners-up Auckland at AMI Stadium in Christchurch.
Southland and Otago renew their long-standing rivalry at Rugby Park, Invercargill, on Sunday, August 21, and the opening round concludes with the visit of Waikato to Blenheim's Lansdowne Park, where Tasman will be looking to build on last year’s third place finish.
The Ranfurly Shield will go on the line for the first time in Round Two, when holders Waikato, who have successfully held off three challenges in pre-season matches, defend the Log o’ Wood against North Harbour on Saturday, August 27.