A new competition structure of 14 premier provincial unions was unveiled today as part of the proposed new agreement between the New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) and the Players' Association.
Next year will feature a full 14-team round robin with semifinals and a final, the same format as 2009. But in 2011, a new structure will see the 14 teams split into two divisions of seven, based on their on-field finishing positions in 2010.
The top seven teams will form the Premiership and the bottom seven teams the Championship. Teams will play all other teams in their division plus four other teams from the other division.
The NZRU said there would be an "innovative" new process for teams to select their cross-division opponents, with the detail to be finalised in the first quarter next year.
The winner of the Championship will receive automatic promotion to the Premiership, replacing the seventh placed team in the Premiership, which will be relegated to the Championship.
In 2011, due to New Zealand hosting the rugby World Cup, the competition window will be restricted to eight weeks. As a result, in 2011 only, there will be three mid-week matches and no semifinals.
From 2012, the competition will begin two weeks after the conclusion of the new expanded Super Rugby in mid-August and be played over 12 weeks. This will see the introduction of semifinals and no mid week matches.