First XV rugby returns to television screens later this month for an eighth season, but there are considerably less matches and doubleheaders compared to 2016.

Last season SKY's Rugby Channel showed no less than 49 matches, including the two schools internationals at Auckland Grammar School in October.

But, partially due to budget restrictions and the all-consuming Lions tour, there will be just 30 games shown in 2017.

Kicking off the coverage is an Auckland 1A/1B promotion relegation fixture between Tamaki and Otahuhu, which should offer the usual intense affair that is typical of the nature of these high pressure games.

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The 205th staging of the Auckland Grammar v King's clash will be televised in 2017, but defending Auckland and national champs MAGS will not be shown until at least the playoffs. Likewise, national runners-up Hastings BHS do not feature at all until at least the playoffs.

But there is room for some of the traditionals that always prove popular. Southland BHS host Otago BHS on May 24, while on Thursday June 1 is Christchurch BHS v Christ's. The latter will be involved on August 5 in St Andrew's special centennial game.

Most of the top competition finals will be televised, though SKY has not covered the Auckland 1A final since 2013. They have competition from Auckland Rugby's First XV TV.

The Super 8 is not forgotten, with two key fixtures on the card, while the sole Central North Island is St Paul's Collegiate versus St Peter's School of Cambridge on July 1.

Some matches double as Super Rugby curtainraisers, while the North Harbour 1A final is traditionally held on a Thursday night before the Mitre 10 Cup game in Albany, in this case North Harbour v Otago to open the competition on August 17.

The national Top 4 and co-ed finals will, as ever, form a juicy climax to the season. They are again held in Palmerston North.

The breakdown of TV matches for each major competition is as follows (not including playoffs):
UC Championship (Canterbury) - 4
Auckland 1A - 4
Super 8 - 2
North Harbour 1A - 1
Central North Island - 1

Schedule:
April 29: Tamaki v Otahuhu (Auckland 1A/1B promotion-relegation)
May 6: Shirley BHS v Timaru BHS (UC Championship)
May 13: Takapuna Grammar v Massey (North Harbour 1A)
May 20: Wellington v Palmerston North BHS (Tranzit festival)
May 24: Southland BHS v Otago BHS (Traditional)
May 27: St Kentigern v Sacred Heart (Auckland 1A)
June 1: Christchurch BHS v Christ's (UC/Traditional)
June 3: Chiefs Cup final, TBA
June 10: St Peter's v Auckland Grammar (Auckland 1A)
June 17: Auckland Grammar v King's (Auckland 1A)
June 24: Hamilton BHS v Rotorua BHS (Super 8)
July 1: St Paul's Collegiate v St Peter's, Cambridge (CNI)
July 8: Tauranga BC v Hamilton BHS (Super 8)
July 15: Rosehill v Te Awamutu
July 22: Christchurch BHS v St Bede's (UC)
July 29: Auckland Grammar v St Kentigern (Auckland 1A)
August 5: St Andrew's v Christ's (UC)
August 12: Super 8 final, TBA
August 17: North Harbour 1A final, TBA
August 19: Auckland 1A semifinals, TBA
August 20: Wellington final, TBA
August 26: Auckland 1A final, TBA
September 2-3: Regional playoffs, TBA
September 8-10: Top 4 semifinals and finals, Palmerston North