Every year the super powers of Southern Hemisphere international rugby union collide and a Rugby Championship winner is crowed. But how does the competition work and why is it different in 2023?
What is the Rugby Championship?
Not to be confused with the Championship (the second tier of English club rugby), the Rugby Championship is an annual tournament that features the best Southern Hemisphere international rugby union teams.
Which countries participate?
Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Argentina.
Was it always called the Rugby Championship?
No. Prior to Argentina’s introduction in 2012, the other countries listed above took part in the Tri Nations, with its inaugural season coming in 1996.
How does it work?
Three years out of four, TRC is a 12-match tournament with every nation playing the other both home and away, with whoever finishes top of the table being crowned as champions.
But as it is a World Cup year, the tournament is reduced to a one-round, home or away six-match tournament being held in July.
There will be two additional marches as New Zealand and Australia compete for the Bledisloe Cup and a second South Africa versus Argentina match is taking place in August following the tournament.
Who are the current title holders?
New Zealand claimed a 19th Tri Nations/TRC title in 2022. The Kiwis’ record for four wins and two defeats was matched by South Africa, but the Springboks came second after securing one fewer bonus points along the way.
What is the Bledisloe Cup?
Contest since the 1930s, the Bledisloe Cup is staged between Australia and New Zealand. The frequency and format has changed. In non World Cup years it is decided over a three match series with two of the games counting towards TRC. In World Cup years, it is reduced to a two-match series.
In 2022, New Zealand lifted the huge trophy for a 50th time. Australia last won the cup back in 2001 and retained it a year later when the series was drawn 1-1.
What are The Rugby Championship fixtures this year?
Round 1 – Saturday, July 8
South Africa v Austrailia
Argentina v New Zealand
Round 2 – Saturday, July 15
New Zealand v South Africa
Australia v Argentina
Round 3 – Saturday July 29
Australia v New Zealand
South Africa v Argentina
Additonal fixtures – Saturday, August 5
New Zealand v Australia
Argentina v South Africa
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