The new-look PARKER PEN CHALLENGE CUP kicks-off on Friday with 1998 Heineken Cup champions Bath Rugby first into the action with their trip to GR.A.N. Rugby Parma on Friday night.
The 32 teams from eight nations taking part will be involved in a knock-out tournament consisting of home and away matches for all rounds up to the finals of the PARKER PEN CHALLENGE CUP and the PARKER PEN SHIELD at the end of May.
"We are now in the seventh season of a competition that has grown in stature and pre-eminence with each passing year and the new format for this season's tournament is designed to revitalise the competition," said ERC Chairman, Jean-Pierre Lux.
"The new format, of home and away matches, promises to provide some outstanding and highly competitive matches over the months ahead.
"Scotland are represented for the first time by the newly formed Borders team and are one of the 32 teams bidding to match the achievements of Bourgoin, Colomiers, Montferrand, Pau, NEC Harlequins and Sale Sharks in winning one of European club rugby's premier tournaments.
"There is also the added incentive of the PARKER PEN CHALLENGE CUP winners automatically qualifying for next season's Heineken Cup tournament when the final is staged on the last weekend of May, 2003."
The 16 unseeded teams are home in the first leg of Round 1 - seeded Bridgend perhaps drawing the shortest short straw by having to travel to Pau.
It all adds up to Bridgend players avoiding black cats like the plague but bad luck continues to haunt them this season.
"We're not having the best of luck," said former Wales wing and Bridgend Chief Executive Adrian Hadley.
"We've been hit by injuries to a couple of key backs, we play Leinster with all their internationals when everyone else gets their B team - and then we're drawn against Pau of all teams!
"But we just have to get on with it. We've all been to France before - we know what to expect."
Bridgend are coming off a poor performance against Cardiff, and Hadley is frustrated by his side's inability to score tries.
"Last season we were scoring tries all over the place, but getting beaten up front," he said.
"On Saturday, we hammered the Cardiff scrum and did well in the lineout but we didn't threaten out wide.
"Winning becomes a habit, but so does losing. We've got a lot of quality players out there - it's just a case of putting it all together on the field."
Key Bridgend players Sililo Martens and captain Gareth Thomas suffered knocks against Cardiff but Hadley expects both to be fit for the Pau match.
Angus O'Brien has quickly settled into the Wales Sevens squad after solid performances in Hong Kong and Japan. With two rounds remaining in Glasgow and Twickenham on the World Series, WRU TV's Graeme Gillespie chats to the rising star.
Wales winger Luke Morgan has established himself as one of the deadliest finishers on the Sevens World Series. WRU TV's Graeme Gillespie catches up with him on the eve of this weekend's round in Glasgow.
All roads lead to Cardiff on Sunday for the SSE SWALEC Finals Day at the Millennium Stadium. Cambrian Welfare tackle Ystradgynlais in the Bowl final, Ystrad Rhondda play Newcastle Emlyn in the Plate final while defending champions Pontypridd face Bridgend in the Cup final.
WRU Chief Executive Roger Lewis, Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism Ken Skates and WRU Chairman Gareth Davies earlier this week launched a new competition in conjunction with the WRU unveiling its archive room.
Welsh players and management joined Deputy Minister for Sport Ken Skates at the Pierhead Building, Cardiff Bay earlier this week to reveal the Union's pioneering school-club hub initiative has been so successful the project will now almost double the scale of the original project.
The Scarlets, Newport Gwent Dragons, Cardiff Blues and the Ospreys look ahead to Judgement Day III which sees the Blues take on the Ospreys (2.30) and the Dragons tackle the Scarlets (4.45pm) at the Millennium Stadium tomorrow afternoon.
Ystradgynlais and Ynysddu played out a titanic struggle at Taffs Well in the SSE SWALEC Bowl semi-final. At the end of the game neither team could be separated after a 15-15 stalemate but Ystradgynlais go through on try count.
Blues strike first in JD III battle - Newport Gwent Dragons lock Andrew Coombs, WRU referee Dylan Llyr Jones and Cardiff Blues hooker Matthew Rees decide dressing room allocations for Judgement Day III
Wales Under 18 captain Calum Haggett has received a conditional offer to read Biomedical Science at St Anne's College, Oxford. WRU chairman Gareth Davies went to meet Calum and Coleg y Cymoedd Principal Judith Evans to wish him luck in his exams and pass on some of his personal experience.