Women's Provincial Championship kicks off

Getty Images     08 Sep 2012     Getty Images

New Zealand Rugby Union General Manager Professional Rugby Neil Sorensen said with a growing number of women playing the game, an increase in the number of teams competing this year, and the implementation of new rugby laws that aim to invigorate the game, this year's competition promises to be an exciting season and a great opportunity to showcase women's rugby in New Zealand.

For the first time in the competition's 12-year history, an all women referee team will control all matches.

"It's a real sign that women's rugby is going from strength to strength that all 22 matches will be whistled by women referees. Coming off the back of the success of the Go4Gold sevens recruitment programme and the New Zealand Women's Sevens win at the Oceania Sevens Championship in Fiji last month, and the certainty that the Blacks Ferns will tour England at end of the year, there is strong interest in women's rugby in New Zealand at the moment and that's great for the game," Sorensen said.

Played over a total eight weeks, the Women's Provincial Championship has increased to seven teams this year, with Waikato taking part for the first time since 2005. The format consists of a Round Robin with all teams playing in a single pool. The two Provincial Unions with the highest number of competition points at the completion of the Round Robin will proceed to the Final, to be played on 27 October 2012 as a curtain raiser to the ITM Cup Premiership Final. The winning team will be awarded the Women's Provincial Championship trophy.

To see the Round One Preview, click here.

To view the full 2012 draw, click here.

To view the referee appointments, click here.

To see the law trials in effect during the competition, click here.