Australia
NRC in final stages of completion
ESPN Staff
March 22, 2014
ARU CEO Bill Pulver larks around  during the 2013 Australian Super Rugby launch at Sketch, Central Pier, Melbourne, February 13, 2013
Bill Pulver has continued to push the NRC to begin in 2014 © Getty Images
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Australia's National Rugby Championship (NRC) is in the final stages of completion and is set to kick off in August involving nine teams, including a sensational merger between Eastern Suburbs, Randwick and NSW Country. The sides have come together to form a powerhouse that is likely to create the top team in the inaugural year of the NRC.

Three more Sydney based teams are set to join the Randwick-Easts-Country team; a western Sydney bid made up of Shute Shield clubs West Harbour, Parramatta, Penrith, Eastwood and Southern Districts; the North Harbour Rays, made up of Manly, Norths, Warringah and Gordon; and the Sydney Stars, a merger between Sydney University and Balmain rugby club.

Two teams from Queensland, and one each from Canberra, Melbourne and Perth are also expected to join the competition.

Sydney University Football Club president David Mortimer told Fairfax Media the club was "excited about the prospect of the National Rugby Championship", support that was sorely missed during the inception of the Australian Rugby Championship (ARC) in 2007.

Originally members of the "coalition of the unwilling" in 2007 along with Randwick and Eastern Suburbs, Sydney University has changed its tune and is now ready to stake a claim in the new competition.

"By participating in the competition, we think it's the best thing for our guys going forward, but it is dependent on the success of the competition and the extent to which it is promoted and marketed by the ARU."

Although it appears the ARU has covered all its bases - signing a deal with Fox Sports for $1.5 million to broadcast the competition and bringing in sports administrator John Boultbee to plan and launch a competition that won't drain funding - it appears the most valuable of Australian rugby are risking the most.

It is understood most syndicates have raised between $350,000 to $500,000 in their bids for a place in the first season of the competition, money that could easily mean life or death for many of the clubs.

"We are looking at this as a two-year exercise, but it is a major investment for all of our syndicates ... It is very important that it is successful, otherwise the money is burnt forever."

With an announcement expected next week, the ARU have remained tight-lipped on details discussed during a board meeting held on Friday, but a spokesperson said there were many issues still to be resolved before they could make any public announcement.

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