The newly promoted Wellington Lions will play crossover matches against Championship rivals Manawatu, Waikato, Otago and Southland during next year’s Mitre 10 Cup.
Back in the Premiership for the first time since 2014, the Lions will host Otago and Southland at Westpac Stadium and travel away to Manawatu and Waikato after provincial union representatives met to pick their crossover opponents for 2018.
After winning promotion to the Premiership with thrilling overtime win over Bay of Plenty late last month, Wellington have effectively swapped sides with relegated Waikato on the two-column table.
With the crossover matches decided, New Zealand Rugby will now start work on the full 2018 Mitre 10 Cup draw, which is expected to be finalised over the coming months.
New Zealand Rugby’s Head of Provincial Union Rugby, Steve Lancaster, said the crossover games were an exciting part of the competition with no guarantee the Premiership teams would come away with the wins.
“As we’ve seen in the 2017 season, the quality of rugby was outstanding, with some great match-ups between teams from the Premiership and Championship.
“Wellington is a great example of this, beating eventual Premiership winners Canterbury convincingly in a crossover fixture. Wellington made the games against Premiership opposition count, winning three of their four crossover fixtures, and eventually earning promotion into the Premiership for 2018.
“The crossover matches are an important part of the Mitre 10 Cup format, pitting Championship against Premiership, and seeing traditional geographic rivalries maintained,” he said.
The four rounds of picks took place as follows (home team listed first):
i. The 1st round of picks are selected by Premiership teams in reverse order of seeding. These games will be played as home games for the Championship teams;
• Manawatu v Wellington
• Southland v Auckland
• Hawke’s Bay v Counties Manukau
• Waikato v North Harbour
• Northland v Taranaki
• Otago v Tasman
• Bay of Plenty v Canterbury
ii. The 2nd round of picks are selected by Championship teams in reverse order of seeding. These games will be played as home games for the Championship teams;
• Southland v Counties Manukau
• Hawke’s Bay v North Harbour
• Manawatu v Tasman
• Northland v Auckland
• Otago v Canterbury
• Bay of Plenty v Taranaki
• Waikato v Wellington
iii. The 3rd round of picks are selected by Premiership teams in order of seeding. These games will be played as home games for the Premiership teams;
• Canterbury v Hawke’s Bay
• Tasman v Southland
• Taranaki v Manawatu
• North Harbour v Bay of Plenty
• Counties Manukau v Northland
• Auckland v Waikato
• Wellington v Otago
iv. The 4th round of picks are selected by Championship Teams in order of seeding. These games will be played as home games for the Premiership Teams;
• Taranaki v Waikato
• Counties Manukau v Bay of Plenty
• Auckland v Otago
• North Harbour v Northland
• Canterbury v Manawatu
• Tasman v Hawke’s Bay
• Wellington v Southland