Rugby: Tuesday matches axed

Next year's provincial competition will no longer have games played on Tuesdays and will start a week earlier.

After a meeting of provincial union officials yesterday, the New Zealand Rugby Union released a statement about next year's ITM Cup.

NZRU chief executive Steve Tew said the competition would start on the weekend of August 17 and run for nine weeks, to be followed by semifinals and finals.

It would remain in two divisions.

Tew said there had been overwhelming support to start the competition a week earlier to help address concerns about midweek fixtures.

Matches would no longer be scheduled for Tuesday nights, and teams would now only have one short turnaround in a season, rather than two, he said.

Otago played both its midweek games this year on a Tuesday, winning both.

Earlier this week, Otago Rugby Football Union general manager Richard Kinley had said the union did not have a firm preference on playing midweek games.

Tew said the unions wanted to have a clear window for the competition without affecting club rugby and Super 15.

The Super 15 final is scheduled for August 4, with club rugby likely to be finish around the same time.

The ITM Cup will finish in late October with the draw for next year's competition expected to be released in February.