Here is a quick preview of what’s to come on the opening weekend with some interesting fixtures taking place.
First up is the clash of the Cheetahs and last season’s runners-up the Glasgow Warriors. With a host of Glasgow players away on international duty this could be a chance for the South African side to get their competition off to the perfect start. However, Glasgow have recruited well over the last couple of months and some new faces will want to impress as they take to the field on Friday.
The only other game on Friday sees Ulster host the Ospreys as the Irish province will look to start their season well following a mixed season last time around. Meanwhile the Ospreys will want to improve on what was a poor season for them.
Saturday is filled with the remaining five games of the round as Munster open their campaign against the Dragons. Munster are without the likes of Conor Murray, Joey Carbery, Peter O’Mahony and CJ Stander, among others, but will still be confident they can claim a win.
At the same time the Kings will play host to the Cardiff Blues, another team that failed to hit top form last season. The Kings have struggled badly in the past two seasons and will want to take advantage of a weakened Blues side in order to build points while the big name players away.
Later on Saturday the Scarlets will welcome Connacht in what is possibly the standout game of the round. Connacht will have to cope without stars Jack Carty and Bundee Aki but otherwise they have a strong team that could prove too much for the Scarlets.
Last season’s surprise package Benetton take on two-time reigning champions Leinster in Italy at 17 15. However, despite this looking like a great match-up due to last season, both teams are severely weakened as their key men are currently in Japan. Leinster have had a strong pre-season and will still have names such as Ross Byrne, James Lowe, Devin Toner and Scott Fardy available as they begin their hunt for three in a row.
Whatever happens, what is certain is that players have a chance to impress while the stars are away and expect the season to start off with a bang as teams look to kick-start their campaign in perfect fashion.
Check Out the Full List of Fixtures Below:
Cheetahs vs Glasgow Warriors
Ulster vs Ospreys 19:35
Munster vs Dragons 15:00
Kings vs Cardiff Blues 15:00
Scarlets vs Connacht 17:35
Benetton vs Leinster 17:35
Edinburgh vs Zebre 19:35
Ringrose to captain Leinster v Ulster
The Leinster Rugby team, as sponsored by Bank of Ireland, to face Ulster Rugby in the Final of the Guinness PRO14 tomorrow in the Aviva Stadium has been named by Leinster Head Coach Leo Cullen (KO 7.35pm – live on eir Sport, TG4 & RTÉ Radio).
Cullen has made a number of changes from the team that accounted for Munster Rugby in the semi-final with Garry Ringrose named as captain of the senior side for the first time.
The back three is the same that started against Munster last week with Jordan Larmour selected at full back having come through the graduated return to play protocols successfully this week and Hugo Keenan on the right wing and James Lowe on the left.
Robbie Henshaw is again selected at inside centre with captain Ringrose outside him in the number 13 jersey.
Ringrose made his Leinster debut in September 2015 on the wing against Cardiff Blues and tomorrow’s Guinness PRO14 Final will be his 75th appearance in a Leinster jersey. In that time he has scored 25 tries and has 29 Ireland caps to his name.
The half back partnership sees Jamison Gibson-Park and Ross Byrne start at nine and 10.
In the pack there is no change in the front row with Cian Healy, Rónan Kelleher and Andrew Porter again selected. In winning his 219th cap, Cian Healy joins Leo Cullen and Rob Kearney as the joint 4th most capped player in Leinster history.
James Ryan has recovered from injury to take his place in the second row alongside Devin Toner.
Finally in the back row, Guinness Player of the Match from last week Caelan Doris is again selected at blindside flanker with Josh van der Flier at openside and finally Jack Conan is selected in the number eight jersey.
Leinster Rugby (caps in brackets):
15. Jordan Larmour (48)
14. Hugo Keenan (16)
13. Garry Ringrose (74) CAPTAIN
12. Robbie Henshaw (46)
11. James Lowe (45)
10. Ross Byrne (87)
9. Jamison Gibson-Park (91)
1. Cian Healy (218)
2. Rónan Kelleher (13)
3.Andrew Porter (64)
4. Devin Toner (247)
5. James Ryan (37)
6. Caelan Doris (31)
7. Josh van der Flier (82)
8. Jack Conan (91)
16. James Tracy (109)
17. Ed Byrne (55)
18. Michael Bent (138)
19. Scott Fardy (60)
20. Will Connors (18)
21. Luke McGrath (125)
22. Johnny Sexton (165)
23. Rory O’Loughlin (69)
Referee: Andrew Brace (IRFU)
Press Release from Leinster Rugby
Ulster make big changes for Leinster Final
The Ulster men will be boosted by the return of club captain, Iain Henderson, who will be making his first appearance since the season resumption, and is one of four changes to the side that defeated Edinburgh in last week’s thrilling Semi-Final at BT Murrayfield.
Alan O’Connor will partner Henderson in the second row, while the front row of Eric O’Sullivan, Rob Herring and Tom O’Toole is retained. The back row sees one change, with Sean Reidy coming into the starting line-up at openside flanker. Matthew Rea takes the blindside flanker position and Marcell Coetzee packs down at number eight.
The back three sees two positional switches, with Jacob Stockdale moving to the left wing, while Rob Lyttle swaps over to the right. Joining them at full-back is Michael Lowry, returning to the starting XV. Stuart McCloskey – who, along with John Cooney, was named in the Guinness PRO14 Dream Team earlier this week – continues his midfield partnership with James Hume. All Black scrum-half, Alby Mathewson, will make his first start for Ulster alongside Billy Burns at fly-half.
McFarland has opted for a 6-2 split on the bench where John Andrew, Jack McGrath, Marty Moore, Sam Carter, Jordi Murphy and Nick Timoney will offer the forward backup, and the backline cover is provided by John Cooney and Ian Madigan.
Ulster team to play Leinster Rugby, Guinness PRO14 Final, Aviva Stadium, Saturday 12 September (7.35pm, live on Premier Sports / eir Sport):
(15-9) Michael Lowry, Rob Lyttle, James Hume, Stuart McCloskey, Jacob Stockdale, Billy Burns, Alby Mathewson.
(1-8) Eric O’Sullivan, Rob Herring, Tom O’Toole, Alan O’Connor, Iain Henderson (Capt.), Matthew Rea, Sean Reidy, Marcell Coetzee.
Replacements (16-23): John Andrew, Jack McGrath, Marty Moore, Sam Carter, Jordi Murphy, John Cooney, Ian Madigan, Nick Timoney.
Press Release from Ulster Rugby
Leinster ring the changes for Ulster clash
The Leinster Rugby team, as sponsored by Bank of Ireland, to face Ulster Rugby tomorrow in the Aviva Stadium in Round 15 of the Guinness PRO14 has been announced by Head Coach Leo Cullen (KO 7.35pm – live on eir Sport & RTÉ Radio).
Ed Byrne will captain the side for the first time in a competitive fixture, starting in the front row with Irish internationals Seán Cronin and Michael Bent.
Carlow native Byrne made his debut in February 2014 against Zebre and will win his 54th Leinster cap tomorrow when he leads out his province for the first time.
Devin Toner starts in the second row with Ross Molony, while Josh Murphy, Will Connors, and Max Deegan complete the starting pack.
In the backs, Cullen has selected a back three of Rob Kearney, Hugo Keenan, and Cian Kelleher.
Ciarán Frawley and Rory O’Loughlin is the centre partnership, while in the half backs Jamison Gibson-Park wins his 90th cap for Leinster Rugby and is joined by Ross Byrne.
Leinster Rugby Academy player Tom Clarkson is in line to make his senior debut from the bench.
Leinster Rugby (caps in brackets)
15. Rob Kearney (218)
14. Hugo Keenan (14)
13. Rory O’Loughlin (67)
12. Ciarán Frawley (25)
11. Cian Kelleher (14)
10. Ross Byrne (85)
9. Jamison Gibson-Park (89)
1. Ed Byrne (53) CAPTAIN
2. Seán Cronin (182)
3. Michael Bent (136)
4. Devin Toner (245)
5. Ross Molony (95)
6. Josh Murphy (32)
7. Will Connors (16)
8. Max Deegan (63)
16. James Tracy (108)
17. Michael Milne (8)
18. Tom Clarkson (0)
19. Rhys Ruddock (172)
20. Scott Penny (13)
21. Rowan Osborne (4)
22. Harry Byrne (9)
23. Jimmy O’Brien (17)
Referee: George Clancy (IRFU)