The 2018 National Rugby Championship draw was released earlier today with a focus on regional grounds and grassroots footy.
The NRC will now include just the one Sydney-based club, with the Sydney Rays and Greater Sydney Rams merged into one streamlined side.
This has allowed for the return to the traditional Sydney versus Country rivalry.
The highly-anticipated clash will take place on September 19 at Leichhardt Oval as part of a broader push towards making the competition more accessible in all areas of New South Wales.
The new-look Sydney side will also play their home games at Woollahra Oval and Concord Oval while NSW Country will take the Championship to Mudgee, Armidale and Camden.
Two-time NRC champions Brisbane City have also opted to bring their home games closer to the community, with matches scheduled to be played in the iconic grounds surrounding Ballymore.
Rugby Australia Chief Executive, Raelene Castle, said this year’s draw presents fans across Australia with a great opportunity to embrace the grassroots aspect of the sport.
“Being accessible to the community is the key to the success of the NRC and it is great to see many teams take the initiative to spread their home matches around and give more fans the opportunity to watch some quality Rugby in their own communities,” she said.
The Western Force will also play their inaugural season in the NRC in 2018 after their strong World Series Rugby campaign. They replace Perth Spirit as the new ambassadors for Western Australia.
Fans will be treated to a grand final replay in the opening round of the 2018 NRC when defending champions Queensland Country take on the Canberra Vikings.
The competition officially kicks off with the Fiji Drua hosting Melbourne Rising at Ratu Cakobau Park on Saturday, September 1.
The semi-finals start on Saturday, October 20 while the grand final will be played the following week on October 27.