NPC unions want midweek games scrapped

GLENN MCLEAN
Last updated 05:00 07/12/2012

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Provincial

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An overwhelming majority of provincial unions want midweek NPC matches scrapped and an extra fortnight added to next year's competition.

While Auckland, Wellington and Canterbury are happy with the structure, the remaining 11 unions involved in the two-tier competition have had enough of the condensed format.

The opinion of the vast majority flies in the face of what New Zealand Rugby Union chief executive Steve Tew wants.

He has previously stressed to unions that the format needs more time before any review takes place.

Taranaki Rugby boss Neil Pennington disagreed, saying the 10-week competition put too much pressure on players and did not allow coaches to get on with their primary task - to coach.

"The big thing is player welfare and recovery," he said.

A number of unions were also unhappy at the impact the condensed competition was having on crowd sizes, with many experiencing paltry numbers through the gates on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights.

The disgruntled unions will take their concerns to Wellington next Friday when chief executives and chairmen meet the New Zealand Rugby Union.

While a large number of players initially voiced their approval of the short turnarounds when the format was introduced last year, the taxing nature of the NPC, when combined with an expanded Super Rugby competition, had led to complaints.

Smaller unions with reduced player budgets have also been disadvantaged because players are missing more games through injury in the compact format.

Pennington said Taranaki would be pushing for the NPC to start a week earlier and end a week later rather than just tagging a fortnight on to the end of the current window.

Taranaki were also against a proposal being muted by some of the bigger unions to scrap the semifinals from the premiership and championship divisions.

"Semifinals to us are really important," he said.

"From our prospective, and it probably is that of nine unions around the country, the ITM Cup is really the only game in town and the only chance for fans to be part of professional rugby.

"That's why semifinals are so important.

"It gives the fourth placed team a shot at winning the competition."

Scrapping midweek games would also take out the scenario of the Ranfurly Shield holders being forced to defend the Log o' Wood with as little as four days break.

THis was something Taranaki had to contend with when they lost to Waikato.

"It was certainly not easy for the defender, especially when you take into account all the emotion around those games," Pennington said.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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