The new and "improved" National Provincial Championship kicks off this year on July 14th when Otago hosts North Harbour in a schedule that includes matches on every day of the week aside from Monday.
With the looming Rugby World Cup on the horizon, the competition featuring 14 teams from all over New Zealand has been revamped to fit in with the Cup and split into Premiership and Championship grades with Canterbury, Waikato, Auckland, Wellington, Taranaki, Bay of Plenty and Southland in the top grade. Hawke's Bay, Counties Manukau, Northland, North Harbour, Tasman, Manawatu and Otago will contest the "bottom" tier. Each will play round robin matches within their respective competitions before crossing between the grades for four other matches. No semi-finals will be played because of the World Cup this season with the bottom side of the Premiership automatically relegated and the top of the Championship automatically promoted.
The 2011 schedule is:
July 19: North Harbour v Tasman, Albany; Hawke's Bay v Southland, Napier. July 20: Counties Manukau v Manawatu, Pukekohe; Auckland v Otago, Auckland.
July 21 : Waikato v Taranaki, Hamilton. July 22: Canterbury v Southland (RS), Christchurch. July 23: Manawatu v Northland, Palmerston North; Bay of Plenty v North Harbour, Mount Maunganui; Wellington v Auckland, Wellington. July 24: Hawke's Bay v Otago, Napier; Tasman v Counties Manukau, Blenheim.
July 26: Bay of Plenty v Waikato,TBA. July 27: Wellington v Canterbury, Wellington; Northland v Taranaki, Whangarei.
July 28: North Harbour v Hawke's Bay, Albany. July 29: Southland v Counties, Invercargill; Waikato v Tasman, Hamilton. July 30: Canterbury v Manawatu (RS), Christchurch; Northland v Otago, Whangarei. July 31: Taranaki v Auckland, New Plymouth; Bay of Plenty v Wellington, Mount Maunganui.
August 2: Hawke's Bay v Tasman, Napier; Manawatu v North Harbour, Palmerston North. August 3: Otago v Counties Manukau, Dunedin; Auckland v Southland, Auckland.
August 4: Northland v Bay of Plenty, Whangarei. August 5: Tasman v Canterbury, Blenheim; Hawke's Bay v Wellington, Napier. August 6: Otago v Southland, Dunedin; Manawatu v Taranaki, Palmerston North. August 7: Counties Manukau v Waikato, Pukekohe; North Harbour v Auckland, Albany.
August 8: Taranaki v Bay of Plenty, New Plymouth. August 9: Canterbury v Waikato (RS), Christchurch; Wellington v Northland, Wellington.
August 11: Auckland v Counties Manukau, Auckland; August 12: Taranaki v Tasman, New Plymouth. August 13: Southland v North Harbour, Invercargill; Bay of Plenty v Hawke's Bay, Rotorua; Wellington v Manawatu, Wellington. August 14: Waikato v Otago, Hamilton; Canterbury v Northland (RS), Christchurch.
August 16: Tasman v Auckland, Nelson; August 17: Counties Manukau v North Harbour, Pukekohe; Otago v Manawatu, Dunedin.
August 18: Wellington v Southland, Wellington. August 19: Canterbury v Taranaki (RS), Christchurch. August 20: Auckland v Bay of Plenty, Auckland; North Harbour v Northland, Albany; Manawatu v Waikato, Palmerston North. August 21: Tasman v Otago, Nelson; Hawke's Bay v Counties Manukau, Napier.
August 23: Bay of Plenty v Canterbury, TBA; Waikato v Wellington, Hamilton. August 24: Northland v Hawke's Bay, Whangarei; Southland v Taranaki, Invercargill.
August 25: Tasman v Manawatu, Nelson; August 26: North Harbour v Wellington, Albany. August 27: Waikato v Auckland, Hamilton; Counties Manukau v Northland, Pukekohe; Otago v Canterbury, Dunedin; August 28: Southland v Bay of Plenty, Invercargill; Taranaki v Hawke's Bay, New Plymouth.
Finals: weekend of September 3.
More rugby reading here.