New Zealand provincial rugby could be a winner in new global rugby calendar
Manawatu Rugby Union chief executive John Knowles has praised the new global rugby calendar and believes it could have positive spin-offs for provincial rugby.
World Rugby announced the new structure on Friday with New Zealand Rugby boss Steve Tew lauding the positives of the deal.
Included was shifting the June test window to the first three weeks of July which allows Super Rugby to run uninterrupted.
While that is a positive note for Super Rugby coaches with them not having to worry about a three-week mid-season break, it is also has potential positive spin offs for provincial unions.
"It frees up space for a greater Mitre 10 Cup season," Knowles said. "It is a significant piece of work that the New Zealand Rugby Union has achieved."
The idea of All Blacks playing in the NPC has long gone, but Super Rugby players still play an important role in the credibility of the competition.
The extended Super Rugby campaigns have put the squeeze on the provincial season in recent years.
This year Super Rugby does not finish until August 5 with the NPC kicking off two weeks later on August 18.
But under the new calendar, the Super Rugby season - which is rumoured to include two or three less teams - would finish by the end of June.
Knowles said that allowed the possibility of the NPC season starting earlier and featuring more inter-provincial games.
He believed the global calendar had opened the door for a "drastically" improved NPC.
Under the current structure, teams do not play against three sides in the competition.
This year Manawatu miss out on matches against Auckland, North Harbour and Canterbury. Depending on the strength of the sides teams avoid, it can give teams a competitive advantage over others on the points table.
There is also a double-header week for each team which includes a Wednesday night game, a match Knowles, not to mention most of the NPC coaches, would be happy to see the back of.
Factoring in the same two-week break between Super Rugby and NPC, it would be possible for the NPC to abolish the Wednesday matches and have all 14 teams play each other.
Discussions of possible future structures of the NPC have been on-going since last year. But the global calendar will allow that to continue with more certainty of the timeframe they have to work with.
The new global calendar is effective from 2020, but changes to Super Rugby could come earlier.
Among other changes to come from the global calendar, World Rugby promised more tests between top and second-tier nations, moved the November test window forward one week and locked in three more British and Irish Lions tours.