WOMEN'S RUGBY

The inclusion of Northland in the Farah Palmer Cup has seen the national provincial women's rugby competition grow from 12 to 13 teams this season.

Organisers said the growth of the competition mirrored the surging interest in the women's game.

The opening round on August 31 will see six of the premiership teams take the field, including defending champions Canterbury who host the newly-promoted Wellington, the only team to have beaten them in the 2018 season. Canterbury are again the team to watch as they target a third consecutive title as well as the defence of the JJ Stewart Trophy.

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Other premiership teams are Wellington, Counties Manukau, Manawatu, Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Auckland (who avoided relegation due to the expanded competition format); while Otago, North Harbour, Tasman, Hawke's Bay, Taranaki along with newcomers Northland make up the championship.

Teams play each opposition in their own division once in the round robin, with the championship teams advancing to quarter-finals and the premiership teams going straight to semi-finals. Finals will be played on the last weekend of October.

■ Northland's draw is, week 2: vs Hawkes Bay in Napier on September 7, 1pm kick off; week 3: vs Otago in Whangarei at 12 noon on September 14; week 4: vs North Harbour at 2pm in Whangarei on September 22; week 5: vs Taranaki at 2.30pm in Inglewood on September 28; and, week 6: vs Tasman at 12.30pm in Whangarei on October 5 (home games in italics).

There will be more televised matches than ever before including 19 live broadcasts.

Northland coach Cheryl Smith and assistant coach Susan Dawson held an open trial at Kaikohe RFC on Sunday.