Same old, same old for Taranaki in NPC crossover

Taranaki will face some familiar foes in next year's National Provincial Championship after yesterday's crossover draw was completed in Wellington.

Under the competition rules, one crossover opponent was determined by this season's final placings, which means fourth-placed Taranaki will travel to 11th-placed Southland for the third time in as many years.

Two of the three remaining crossover matches were determined by championship teams, with Manawatu picking Taranaki as a home fixture while Tasman chose to travel to New Plymouth for the third year in a row.

Taranaki's only pick for a home match, which was selected by chief executive Neil Pennington, was Hawke's Bay, who will travel to Yarrow Stadium, again for a third year in succession.

That means Taranaki will avoid playing Otago and North Harbour in the NPC for, yes, a third year in a row.

Yesterday's draw was the first time the New Zealand Rugby Union had opened up the draw to the media, who could join a telephone conference to hear the selections.

All three crossover draws were completed in less than 15 minutes, with most chief executives clear in their minds who they wanted to play.

Manawatu chief executive John Knowles was quick to pick Taranaki when his union was afforded the second choice in the first round, courtesy of their side finishing second-to-last in the NPC championship division.

Likewise, Tasman boss Andrew Flexman, who did not hesitate on making another trip north, despite Tasman never having won at Yarrow Stadium.

Pennington was happy enough with Taranaki's home matches against Hawke's Bay and Tasman, while he thought it was always on the cards they would face Manawatu, a fixture they lost the last time they travelled to Palmerston North.

"It just makes sense to try and get games close to your area because fans can get to the games in a day," he said.

He disagreed that Taranaki's familiarity with Tasman and Hawke's Bay could prove a turn-off for fans.

"From our side of things we hope to be playing some really good footy, so crowds will want to come and watch us play.

"That's the key."

Taranaki's home premiership matches will be against Wellington, Auckland and Bay Of Plenty while their away matches will include fixtures against Canterbury, Counties Manukau and Waikato.

Other features of the crossover draw were possible Ranfurly Shield challenges for Northland and Otago against Waikato, while Counties Manukau drew Tasman in a repeat of this year's championship final.

A workshop is due to be held later this month involving all provincial chief executives to determine the length of next year's NPC, and what time of the year it will start and finish.

The review follows widespread criticism of the condensed nature of this year's competition.

The final schedule will be made public early next year.

Taranaki Daily News