Change in ITM Cup format for 2013
The 2013 ITM Cup will be played over an extended competition window of nine weeks with a reduction in mid-week fixtures.
The New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) announced that following consultation with provincial unions, the competition will begin on the weekend of 17 August 2013 and will run for nine weeks followed by semi-finals and finals.
NZRU Chief Executive Steve Tew said there had been overwhelming support from ITM Cup unions to start the competition a week earlier to help address concerns about mid-week fixtures.
Matches will no longer be scheduled for Tuesday evenings, and teams will now only have one short turnaround in a season, rather than two.
"There is still a very clear desire for ITM Cup to retain a standalone window in order to preserve the windows currently for both club rugby and Super Rugby," said Tew.
"Starting a week earlier is a sensible solution that doesn't compromise those dedicated time-frames.
"The competition will still conclude at the end of October and we have retained the play-off structure which has been hugely popular with fans and unions.
"We saw this year that heading toward the play-offs, almost every team had something to play for."
The finalised 2013 ITM Cup draw is expected to be released in February.