For the first time in more than a decade, 12 teams will contest the Farah Palmer Cup.

Taranaki has joined the women's provincial rugby competition for the 2018 season, which kicks off on September 1.

The growth in the competition is a reflection of a stellar 12 months of women's rugby which included a World Cup title, Commonwealth Games sevens gold medal and a contracting agreement.

New Zealand Rugby's Head of Women's Rugby Development Cate Sexton said competition reinforced the growth in women's rugby in New Zealand.


"The return of Taranaki sees 12 provincial unions competing in the biggest competition in recent times, demonstrating that players know this competition is a stepping stone opportunity to higher honours.

"The introduction of Black Ferns contracts creates a professional pathway for these players which only adds motivation to what is already an exciting competition."

The draw for the competition was released by New Zealand Rugby on Wednesday, with 42 matches to be played over eight weeks.

Canterbury won their maiden Farah Palmer Cup title and locked away the JJ Stewart Trophy in 2017. They'll be joined in the premiership division by Bay of Plenty, Counties Manukau, Waikato, Auckland and Manawatu.

Wellington, Otago, North Harbour, Tasman, Hawke's Bay and Taranaki will contest the championship.

Teams play each opposition in their own division and one cross over match throughout the six week round robin.