Sydney - Australia will introduce a new domestic rugby competition in 2014 similar to South Africa's Currie Cup to help develop more elite players, officials announced on Tuesday.
The National Rugby Championship will feature eight-10 teams from across the country with Australian Rugby Union chief Bill Pulver saying it will offer "the opportunity to introduce innovative rules to the game".
"This new competition will be a tremendous opportunity for rugby fans to support teams from across the country in a local competition that we hope will rival New Zealand's ITM Cup and South Africa's Currie Cup at a time of year when there is little local rugby being played," he said.
The tournament is designed to provide players with a pathway between club and Super 15 rugby, and will be held annually at the end of the Super and club seasons from August to October.
Expressions of interest are being sought from existing clubs wanting to compete in their own right, clubs wanting to form a syndicate with other organisations such as universities, or new teams.
The successful teams are expected to be announced by the end of February.