Some of the biggest names in the northern hemisphere turned up in the Heineken Cup final city of Cardiff on Monday to offer their views of the forthcoming campaign.
Brian O'Driscoll, Jason Robinson, Simon Easterby and Matt Dawson were just a few of the players who attended the season's launch at the Hilton Hotel, Cardiff. Also in the audience were coaches Ian McGeechan, Dai Young, Gareth Jenkins, Steve Diamond, Paul Turner and Lyn Jones.
Wales' First Minister, Rhodri Morgan, welcomed the tournament back to its 'spiritual home' before ERC chief executive Derek McGrath set the scene for the new season.
ERC also announced that two former Heineken Cup winners, Ieuan Evans (Bath 1998) and Rob Howley (London Wasps 2004), will be joined by the current Miss Wales, Claire Evans, as 'ERC Ambassadors' for the 11th Heineken Cup final at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday, 20 May.
The Pool matches kick-off on Friday, 21 October when Sale Sharks host Munster, Ulster welcome Benetton Treviso and Glasgow Warriors travel to Bourgoin. It promises to be an explosive start with the best of the action being captured by ERC's broadcast partners Sky Sports, RTE, France Televisions, Sport + and Sky Italia.
Cardiff Blues coach David Young, who's team face Leeds Tykes, Rugby Calvisano and Perpignan in Pool 2, said a home-town venue for the Cup final was a huge incentive for his players to go one better than the side of 1996 that reached the inaugural final at the old Cardiff Arms Park.
"It's obviously at the back of our minds that a game at the Millennium Stadium is there at the end. I think it would be great if one of the four Welsh regions could make that final," said Young.
Llanelli Scarlets director of rugby Gareth Jenkins has led his side to two semi-finals and will have to take his team to the home of the reigning champions Toulouse for their first outing in this season's 'Pool of Death' - Toulouse, Llanelli Scarlets, London Wasps and Edinburgh Gunners.
"The Heineken Cup is the pinnacle of the season for all the teams that take part. It is what we build towards and where we find the ultimate test of how good we are," said Jenkins.
"We lost at home to Toulouse in the first game of last season and so we will be travelling looking for a better result this time. They are a great club, the leaders in Europe, but we gave them a fright in the return game last season and we will travel with a lot of hope."
England and Lions scrum half Matt Dawson, who has vast experience in the tournament with both Northampton Saints and London Wasps, says he is expecting the standard to be even higher this season than ever before.
"The general standard across the board is rising. Even though the French and English have dominated recent finals you always look at the teams in the Celtic League.
Munster, Leister, Llanelli Scarlets and now Edinburgh and realise they are going to be hugely competitive," said Dawson.
In past years you would have looked to have seen who had the harder or easier Pool. Now it is just taken for granted that all the Pools are tough - it is just as hard to qualify from any of the six Pools."
Porthcawl recently received a WRU facilities grant and funding from Natwest RugbyForce in order to give their changing rooms a facelift. This came after receiving £10,000 in a WRU facilities grant last year to tarmac their car park. The improvements have already helped to make the club more accessible, not only for their own members and players but for the whole community.
The Welsh Rugby Union has launched a new, accredited Safeguarding and Protecting Children course - funded by the WRU and delivered in partnership with Sport Wales and the NSPCC - fo rugby club volunteers around Wales.
The SWALEC semi-final draws threw up some mouth-watering clashes in the Cup, Plate and Bowl as the 12 teams aim for the Millennium Stadium Finals Day. All the semi-finals are to be played on the weekend of April 12.
Welsh whistler Rhys Thomas continues to scale the heights of the game as he prepares to be an official in this weekend's Hong Kong Sevens tournament, undoubtedly the showpiece event on the World Series calendar.
Wales International Ian Evans and Wales and Lions legend Scott Quinnell swapped rugby balls for paint pots at Tonna during the RBS 6 Nations. They surprised club players with a special clubhouse makeover to launch NatWest RugbyForce 2014 - a programme developed in partnership with the WRU to make rugby clubs stronger businesses by improving and renovating their facilities with the support of volunteers and the local community.
Fresh from claiming the Bowl honours in Tokyo last Sunday, the Wales Sevens squad have settled into their routine as they prepare for this weekend's Hong Kong tournament where Iolo Evans is aiming high, as WRU TV's Graeme Gillespie discovers.
The Welsh Rugby Union has recently teamed up with Prostate Cymru to help the charity launch its latest campaign to raise awareness of the disease. Members of the Wales squad helped produce a short video and promotional material for the campaign titled 'The Best Defence - is to know the FACTS'.
Defending champions Coleg Sir Gar reached their second consecutive Millennium Stadium final as they defeated Coleg Gwent in the WRU Wednesday Under 18 play-off. Watch highlights of their narrow 10-8 win here.