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Air New Zealand Cup
Saved unions told to prove it or lose it
Scrum.com
December 12, 2009

The fate of the four unions who received a stay of execution from being axed from the Air NZ Cup provincial rugby competition lies in their own hands, New Zealand Rugby Union chief executive Steve Tew said.

Tew's message to the thousands of people who had petitioned to save the Northland, Counties-Manukau, Manawatu and Tasman provinces from being cut as part of a new format was: you've been given a chance, so take it.

The competition is still likely to be re-shaped by 2012 at the latest, meaning the unions have limited time to move themselves out of the firing line by becoming more successful on and off the field.

"Can the four who would have been in danger of going down survive in the long term?" Tew asked on Friday at a news conference announcing the decision."It's now entirely up to them. They've said yes, their fans want that opportunity. They've now got it and good luck to them. "

Tew said the provinces were in no doubt they could afford to play in the Air NZ Cup competition next year.

"We've had very public and very repetitive assertions and statement from a variety of people inside those provinces who've said they can. Now we look forward them enjoying their chance to prove it."

He said there had been a number of positives to come out of the process of reviewing and rescinding last year's decision, "even if at the end we're a little frustrated with the final result".

"Both Mid Canterbury and Wanganui, for example, have gone through a significant piece of work in the last few months that will hold them in much better stead as organisations, regardless of whether they get the opportunity to play in this competition, so that's great.

"And all the passionate people who've written to us over the last three or four months - and they can be counted in their thousands - I hope they really enjoy the competition, get out there and support their teams."

NZRU chairman Jock Hobbs said the current collective employment negotiations taking place and other factors meant the proposed competition could not go ahead in 2010.

The decision to roll the competition over for another year had relieved the time pressure, and allowed the scope to get things exactly right for 2012, with the 2011 competition taking on a "hybrid format" because of the rugby World Cup in New Zealand.

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