ITM Cup format for 2013 confirmed     15 Dec 2012    

The New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) today announced that following consultation with ITM Cup Provincial Unions, the competition will begin on the weekend of 17 August 2013 and will run for nine weeks followed by semifinals and Finals.

NZRU Chief Executive Steve Tew said there had been overwhelming support from ITM Cup 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 ITM Cup to retain a standalone window in order to preserve the windows currently for both club rugby and Investec 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 finalised 2013 ITM Cup draw is expected to be released in February.