The national rugby championship will be played over an extended competition window of nine weeks with a reduction in mid-week fixtures next year.
The New Zealand Rugby Union announced the restructuring today after consultation with provincial unions.
There had been concernms that this year's condensed format placed too much strain on teams, allowing too little time for training because of the recovery required from the constant playing schedule.
Next year's competition will begin on the weekend of August 17 and will run for nine weeks followed by semifinals and Finals.
NZRU chief executive Steve Tew said there had been overwhelming support from unions to start the competition a week earlier to help address concerns about mid-week fixtures.Matches will no longer be scheduled for Tuesday evenings, and teams will now only have one short turnaround in a season, rather than two.
"There is still a very clear desire for NPC to retain a standalone window in order to preserve the windows currently for both club rugby and Super Rugby. Starting a week earlier is a sensible solution that doesn't compromise those dedicated timeframes," Tew said.
"The competition will still conclude at the end of October and we have retained the playoff structure which has been hugely popular with fans and unions. We saw this year that heading toward the playoffs, almost every team had something to play for."
The 2013 NPC draw is expected to be released in February.
- © Fairfax NZ News