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Mitre 10 Heartland Championship 2017 kicks off

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Thursday, August 24, 2017    allblacks.com    Getty Images

Former All Blacks Piri Weepu, Alby Mathewson and Regan King have been named to play for Wairarapa Bush, King Country and Mid Canterbury respectively, bringing international experience to the Heartland Championship.

QUICK TAP: RUGBY TO HONOUR LIFE OF SIR COLIN MEADS

New Zealand Rugby’s Head of Provincial Union Rugby Steve Lancaster said the inclusion of these players will add another layer of interest to a competition that holds a special place in the rugby calendar.

“The Mitre 10 Cup Heartland Championship continues to be a great competition that showcases the depth and breadth of rugby in our country. Year in and year out we are treated to fantastic rugby from these teams and 2017 will be no different,” said Lancaster.

“It’s the passion and dedication of these players, coaches, management teams and supporters that speaks volumes about our game. I love watching this rugby,” he said.

Wanganui will be out to defend their Meads Cup title and are coming off the back of a record breaking season; going unbeaten in 2016 and scoring the most points in one season in the history of the competition. They’ll kick off their title defence by hosting their 2016 semi-final opponents Wairarapa Bush.

The 2016 Lochore Cup winners North Otago will travel up to Horowhenua-Kapiti for their opening match, the two teams settling for a draw in their last encounter.

Other first round fixtures see East Coast host Thames Valley, King Country play West Coast, Mid Canterbury up against Poverty Bay and a South Island battle between Buller and South Canterbury.

All first round matches will see a moments silence observed to honour the passing of Heartland Rugby’s most prolific export and trophy name-sake Sir Colin Meads.

Players will be vying to impress selectors to earn a place in the New Zealand Heartland XV, who will be playing their traditional fixture against New Zealand Marist on 5th November.

The Heartland XV, in their quest to retain the MacCrae Cup, will again be coached by South Canterbury’s Barry Matthews with Craig Scanlon, co-Coach of the Buller team who played in last year’s Meads Cup final, appointed as Assistant Coach.


Heartland Championship – week 1 fixtures

Buller v South Canterbury
Saturday 26 August, 2pm, Westport
Played: 32 (1925-2016). Buller 9 wins, South Canterbury 23.
Last match: Buller 16 South Canterbury 6 at Timaru, 22 October 2016

East Coast v Thames Valley
Saturday 26 August, 2.30pm, Ruatoria
Played: 43 (1931-2016). East Coast 14 wins, Thames Valley 25, drawn 4.
Last match: Thames Valley 50 East Coast 13 at Paeroa, 5 September 2015

Horowhenua Kapiti v North Otago
Saturday 26 August, 2.30pm, Levin
Played: 31 (1955-2016). Horowhenua Kapiti 16 wins, North Otago 14, drawn 1.
Last match: North Otago 36 Horowhenua Kapiti 36 at Oamaru, 10 September 2016

King Country v West Coast
Saturday 26 August, 2.30pm, Taupo
Played: 14 (1985-2015). King Country 8 wins, West Coast 6.
Last match: King Country 36 West Coast 22 at Greymouth, 3 October 2015

Mid Canterbury v Poverty Bay
Saturday 26 August, 2.30pm, Ashburton
Played: 16 (1988-2015). Mid-Canterbury 8 wins, Poverty Bay 8 wins.
Last match: Mid Canterbury 38 Poverty Bay 25 at Gisborne, 26 September 2015

Wanganui v Wairarapa-Bush
Saturday 26 August, 2,30pm, Wanganui
Played: 40 (1971-2016). Wanganui 24 wins, Wairarapa-Bush 16.
Last match: Wanganui 58 Wairarapa-Bush 26 at Wanganui, 22 October 2016