The New Zealand Rugby Football Union has taken away stewardship of its official Website from Xtra and is about to relaunch what its IT manager wants to be "the best rugby site in the world".
The site - which goes under the nzrugby.com - has been created in conjunction with lead sponsor Digital, which provides the server platform, and TVNZ, which will furnish news, instant score updates and multimedia content, served largely from its own site. The site will also include chat rooms, which will open directly for post-mortems after major games, and "special Internet events involving key players".
All Black, Super 12 and NPC Merchandise will be available online and within a few months local fans will be able to book Air New Zealand flight packages to see their teams play away in the NPC.
The site will be launched tomorrow in conjunction with TVNZ, but is already available at either www.nzrugby.com or www.nzrugby.co.nz.
NZRFU IT manager Bryan Lockyer says the union took the site (which won the PC World Web Design Awards last year) back from Xtra "because we didn't feel it was very good, frankly. It'll be far better than it ever was before.
"We're trying here to create the best rugby union site in the world. There'll be stories on international games and we want people from all over the world to visit it."
John Marks of TVNZ's New Media group says the broadcaster began talking to the NZRFU about six months ago "and discovered that we were both looking at producing something very similar. It made it very easy to consider the synergies and it evolved very quickly into a partnership between like-minded people."
The new venture is a step up from TVNZ's previous ventures, which include "live scoring" on joint sites with the BNZ and New Zealand Cricket, and on TVNZ's own site during the All Blacks UK tour late last year. Marks expects more such partnerships, in sports, and in the finance and health sectors.
The nzrugby.com site has been developed internally under the guidance of Lockter, who joined the union about a year ago from the Department of Income Support, where he developed the Income Calculator expert system.
Lockyer says the union is also in the process of tidying of the matter of its trademarks, some of which were registered as Internet domain names by third parties, before the union entered the digital era.
"We've registered nzrugby.com and we're in the process of reclaiming allblacks.com and super12.com through legal channels It's reasonably straightforward to reclaim .com domain names if you can show you already had the name trademarked."
He admits it may be more difficult to get back allblacks.co.nz from the publishing firm which holds it because of the hands-off policies pursued by Domainz, the registry company operated by the Internet Society of New Zealand.