National Provincial Championship

From Academic Kids

The National Provincial Championship (NPC) is New Zealand's principal domestic rugby union competition. It is held annually, with 27 provincial unions competing in three divisions.


The competition

The National Provincial Championship is held annually. Rugby teams from 27 provincial unions compete in three divisions, 10 in Division One, 9 in Division Two, and 8 in Division Three. There is a promotion/relegation system—the bottom placed Division One team plays the Division Two champion to determine if they swap places; whilst the bottom placed Division Two team is automatically relegated and the Division Three champion promoted.

The Division One/Division Two test match was held at the home ground of the bottom team in Division One until 2002. Starting with the 2003 season, the site of the test match was changed to the home ground of the Division Two champion.

The championship typically starts in August. Each team plays every other team in their division once in a round robin fashion. The top four ranking teams in each division then contest two semi-finals with the winners of those matches going on to contest a final. The winner of each final is then declared winner of the championship.


The NPC was first contested in 1976, and although the basic format of Division One has been much the same since then, there have been a number of changes to the lower divisions.

Initially, Division One was made up of 11 teams, 7 from the North Island and 4 from the South. The remaining unions contested a split Division Two, with teams from each island playing amongst themselves. The bottom placed Division One team from the South Island played the winner of the Southern Division Two to determine whether they switched divisions, whilst the bottom placed Division One team from the North Island was automatically relegated, switching places with the winner of the Northern Division Two.

The format continued until 1985, when the split Division Two was replaced by a united Division Two and a Division Three. The top and bottom placed teams in each division were automatically promoted and relegated each year.

In 1992, three teams from Division One were relegated so there were 9 teams in each division. Also, 1992 saw the introduction of semi-finals and a final to determine the champion in each division—previously, a league system had been used.

The only change since then was in 1998, when the number of teams in each division was changed to its present arrangement of 10 in Division One, 9 in Division Two, and 8 in Division Three. Having an even number of teams in Division One removed the necessity for byes.

A major realignment will take place in 2006, when the current three-division setup is replaced by a two-division setup. This differs from the two-division 1976-1984 setup, in which Division Two was split on a North Island/South Island basis, in that both divisions will be nationwide. The new divisions will be designated the Premier Division and Division One. Also, the number of teams will be reduced to 26, as two current unions will form a unified side. For more details on the new setup, click here.

The upcoming expansion of the Super 12 and Tri Nations Series, also slated to take place in 2006, will have a major effect on the NPC, at least in the new Premier Division. This expansion will make the Super 12 into the Super 14, adding two extra fixtures to that competition, and will also add two more Tri-Nations test matches for each national side. Because of these changes, it is intended that players in the All Blacks selection pool will no longer participate in the NPC from 2006 on. This may well make the competition in the Premier Division more even than in the past.

NPC teams, 2005

The NPC divisions for the upcoming 2005 season consist of:

Division One

The current champion is Canterbury.

Bottom placed Northland defeated Division Two champions Nelson Bays and thus remain in Division One.

Division Two

The current champion is Nelson Bays, who were defeated in the Division One playoff against bottom placed Northland, and thus remain in Division Two for 2005.

Poverty Bay were the 2004 Division Three champions and were thus promoted to Division Two.

Division Three

  • Buller
  • Horowhenua-Kapiti
  • King Country
  • Mid Canterbury
  • South Canterbury
  • Thames Valley
  • Wairarapa-Bush
  • West Coast

The current champion is Poverty Bay.

Thames Valley were the bottom placed Division Two team in 2004, and thus were relegated to Division Three.

Changes for 2006

As noted previously, the NPC will switch to a two-division setup for 2006. The number of teams will be reduced from 27 to 26, as Nelson Bays and Marlborough will form a combined side starting that year. There will be no promotion or relegation between the two divisions through the 2008 season.

Highlights of the new competition format:

  • Both divisions will be split into equally sized pools for the first round of the NPC. Each pool will be conducted as a single round-robin.
  • In the second round of both divisions, the top three teams in each first-round pool will play a round-robin against the top three from the other pool.
  • Also in the second round, the bottom four teams in each Premier Division first-round pool will be drawn into two repechage pools of four teams each, conducted as a round-robin.
  • In the second round of Division One, the bottom three teams from each first-round pool will play a round-robin against the bottom three from the other pool.
  • In the Premier Division, the top three teams from each first-round pool, plus the winners of each repechage pool, advance to a single-elimination tournament to determine the champion.
  • In Division One, the four best teams from the top six, as determined by combined results of the first two rounds, advance to a single-elimination tournament to determine the champion. Also, the four best teams from the bottom six, determined in the same manner, advance to a single-elimination secondary cup competition.

For a more detailed description of the new format, see this PDF file ( from the New Zealand Rugby Football Union.

The new divisional alignments will be:

Premier Division

  • Auckland
  • Bay of Plenty
  • Canterbury
  • Counties Manukau
  • Hawke's Bay
  • Manawatu
  • Nelson Bays/Marlborough
  • North Harbour
  • Northland
  • Otago
  • Southland
  • Taranaki
  • Waikato
  • Wellington

Division One

  • Buller
  • East Coast
  • King Country
  • Horowhenua-Kapiti
  • Mid Canterbury
  • North Otago
  • Poverty Bay
  • South Canterbury
  • Thames Valley
  • Wairarapa-Bush
  • Wanganui
  • West Coast

Past NPC winners

Year First Division Winner Second Division Winner Third Division Winner
    North Island South Island  
1976Bay of PlentyTaranakiSouth Canterbury 
1977CanterburyNorth AucklandSouth Canterbury 
1978WellingtonBay of PlentyMarlborough 
1979CountiesHawke's BayMarlborough 
1980ManawatuWaikatoMid Canterbury 
1981WellingtonWairarapa-BushSouth Canterbury 
1983CanterburyTaranakiMid Canterbury 
1985AucklandTaranakiNorth Harbour
1986WellingtonWaikatoSouth Canterbury
1987AucklandNorth HarbourPoverty Bay
1988AucklandHawke's BayThames Valley
1990AucklandHawke's BayThames Valley
1991OtagoKing CountrySouth Canterbury
1992WaikatoTaranakiNelson Bays
1994AucklandSouthlandMid Canterbury
1995AucklandTaranakiThames Valley
1998OtagoCentral VikingsMid Canterbury
1999AucklandNelson BaysEast Coast
2000WellingtonBay of PlentyEast Coast
2001CanterburyHawke's BaySouth Canterbury
2002AucklandHawke's BayNorth Otago
2003AucklandHawke's BayWanganui
2004CanterburyNelson BaysPoverty Bay

Note: From 1976 to 1984 there was no third division, and also the second division was divided into North and South Island competitions.

See also

External links


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