"It was tremendous winning the Celtic League last season because the tournament is a genuine test of the entire strength of your squad - not just your first choice players," said Lyn Jones, the Ospreys head coach. "Winning the Celtic League had a hugely positive effect on the region, particularly as we were only in our second season as a team, and we are relishing the massive challenge of defending the title.
"We start with back-to-back games against Irish sides and those matches are always very intense and physical - they really are mini-internationals - and we have a good healthy rivalry with them."
In only the third season of regional rugby in Wales, the four teams will be seeking to make it a hat-trick of Celtic League titles. Llanelli Scarlets, the 2004 champions, launch their challenge for a second title with the first of four meetings during the season with their Heineken Cup Pool 6 opponents Edinburgh Rugby.
"The big thing is that the Celtic League is getting stronger year by year and the Scottish teams are becoming more competitive every season," said Nigel Davies, the Scarlets head coach. "On top of that I think the Irish are starting to realise they will have to make a greater effort if they want one of their sides to claim the title again, so I am convinced it is going to be an extremely competitive tournament.
"Meeting Edinburgh four times is just one of those unavoidable things - last season we played Glasgow Rugby four times - and we are just happy to start the tournament with a match at Stradey Park."
Paul Turner, Newport Gwent Dragons' new head coach, will get his first taste of Celtic League action when he takes his team to Glasgow on the opening weekend.
"It is a new challenge for me and one to which I am really looking forward. We do have a big job on our hands with our first three fixtures, against Glasgow, the Ospreys and Leinster, all away from home," said former Wales fly half Turner, who has returned to Rodney Parade after coaching spells with Sale, Bedford, Gloucester and Harlequins. "Over the last three years I have watched a lot of televised Celtic League games and I have been really impressed with a lot of the matches.
"Like any tournament there are always some good and some ordinary games but, if all the sides are at full strength, I don't see a lot of difference between the English Premiership and the Celtic League.
"We have got a good coaching set-up, management and squad of players and we are all committed to seeing the region being successful."
David Young, the Cardiff Blues head coach, said: "Galway is always a tough ask for any side to go and win - especially in the first game of a tournament.
"Eric Elwood has been an absolutely brilliant servant to Connacht and then the following week we will be up against another very experienced No 10 in Ulster's David Humphreys before we have the eagerly anticipated East v West clash when we welcome the Scarlets to the Arms Park."
CELTIC LEAGUE FIXTURES 2005 / 2006
Ospreys v Leinster; Scarlets v Edinburgh; Glasgow v Dragons; Connacht v Blues; Munster v The Borders. Free - Ulster
Blues v Ulster; The Borders v Scarlets; Edinburgh v Connacht; Leinster v Glasgow; Munster v Ospreys. Free - Dragons
13 September (Tuesday):
Blues v Scarlets; Ospreys v Dragons
Scarlets v Connacht; The Borders v Ospreys; Glasgow v Munster; Leinster v Dragons; Ulster v Edinburgh. Free - Blues
Dragons v Ulster; Edinburgh v Ospreys; Glasgow v Blues; Connacht v The Borders; Munster v Scarlets. Free - Leinster
30 September/1/2 October:
Edinburgh v Glasgow; Connacht v Munster; Leinster v Ulster. Free - The Borders
The Borders v Edinburgh Munster v Leinster; Ulster v Connacht. Free - Glasgow
Ospreys v Connacht; Scarlets v Glasgow; The Borders v Ulster; Edinburgh v Dragons; Leinster v Blues. Free - Munster
4/5/6 November: Dragons v The Borders; Glasgow v Connacht; Leinster v Edinburgh; Blues v Munster; Ulster v Ospreys. Free - Scarlets
2/3/4 December: Glasgow v Edinburgh; Connacht v Leinster; Munster v Ulster. Free - The Borders
24 December: Dragons v Scarlets; Ospreys v Blues; Edinburgh v The Borders; Munster v Connacht; Ulster v Leinster. Free - Glasgow
27 December (Tuesday): Blues v Dragons; Scarlets v Ospreys
1/2 January: Dragons v Ospreys; Scarlets v Blues; The Borders v Glasgow; Connacht v Ulster; Leinster v Munster. Free - Edinburgh
6/7/8 January: Dragons v Connacht; Scarlets v Leinster; The Borders v Blues; Edinburgh v Munster; Ulster v Glasgow. Free - Ospreys
27/28/29 January: Blues v Edinburgh; Glasgow v Ospreys; Leinster v The Borders; Munster v Dragons; Ulster v Scarlets. Free - Connacht
17/18/19 February: Dragons v Leinster; Ospreys v The Borders; Edinburgh v Ulster; Connacht v Scarlets; Munster v Glasgow. Free - Blues
3/4/5 March: Blues v Ospreys; Scarlets v Dragons; Glasgow v The Borders; Leinster v Connacht; Ulster v Munster. Free - Edinburgh
24/25/26 March: Blues v Glasgow; Ospreys v Edinburgh; Scarlets v Munster; The Borders v Connacht; Ulster v Dragons; Free - Leinster
7/8/9 April: Dragons v Munster; Ospreys v Glasgow; Scarlets v Ulster; The Borders v Leinster; Edinburgh v Blues. Free - Connacht
14/15/16 April: Blues v The Borders; Glasgow v Ulster; Connacht v Dragons; Leinster v Scarlets; Munster v Edinburgh. Free - Ospreys
17 April (Tuesday): Dragons v Blues; Ospreys v Scarlets
28/29/30 April: Blues v Connacht; Dragons v Glasgow; The Borders v Munster; Edinburgh v Scarlets; Leinster v Ospreys. Free - Ulster
5/6/7 May: Ospreys v Munster; Scarlets v The Borders; Connacht v Edinburgh; Glasgow v Leinster; Ulster v Blues. Free - Dragons
12/13/14 May: Blues v Leinster; Dragons v Edinburgh; Glasgow v Scarlets; Connacht v Ospreys; Ulster v The Borders. Free - Munster
26/27/28 May: Munster v Blues; Ospreys v Ulster; The Borders v Dragons; Edinburgh v Leinster; Connacht v Glasgow. Free - Scarlets