Following the introduction of a play-off championship last season in addition to the regular league season, the structure of the season was reviewed by the WRU's Performance and Development unit, in conjunction with the Principality Premiership clubs.
There will be fewer play-off games but each of those games will have a significant effect on league positions and British and Irish Cup qualification.
At the end of the normal league season, the top three clubs will play-off to determine the season's Principality Premiership champion club. Second in the league will play third at the home ground of Club 2, the winner of which will play the club that topped the league at either a neutral venue decided by the WRU or the home club of Club 1.
Clubs have been battling it out throughout the season to finish in the top five as those five clubs will automatically qualify for the British and Irish Cup. Meanwhile, the clubs who finish in sixth to eighth place will play-off to determine Wales' sixth participant in the cross-border competition, with seventh playing eighth at the home ground of Club 7 and the winner of that game playing Club 6 for that final spot, either at a neutral venue decided by the WRU or at the home ground of Club 6.
At the bottom of the table too there will be a play-off structure for potential relegation from and promotion to the Principality Premiership, subject to the decision of the WRU Board with regards to the proposed reforms to the Principality Premiership.
The winners of Division One East and Division One West and the fourteenth club in the Principality Premiership will enter a draw to determine which club plays which in Play Off match one. The winner of Play Off One will progress to play the other team in Play-Off Two to decide which club will take its place in the Principality Premiership in season 2011/12, subject to the proposed reforms of the Principality Premiership being brought in for season 2011/12. These play-offs will be played at neutral venues decided by the WRU.
WRU Head of Rugby, Performance and Development Joe Lydon said, "We have reviewed the first season of play-offs within Premiership rugby and found that they greatly helped to keep the competition alive right through to the end of the season with clubs vying to finish in the top four to earn an automatic place in the British and Irish Cup, and in the top eight to earn a right to challenge for the final two Welsh slots in that competition. Llandovery was a great example of this last season as they finished in eighth position and still managed to perform well in the play-offs to take up a place.
"However, after consulting with the clubs, we were conscious of the demand on clubs and players and these amends to the play-off system have a number of advantages. Firstly, the changes mean a reduced number of games on the fixture list for Principality Premiership clubs and an increased competitiveness of the Play-Off matches themselves with the winner of the grand final being crowned Principality Premiership champion and the final British and Irish Cup place going to the winner of the British and Irish Cup qualification play-off.
"At the bottom end of the table too we see a change with the champions of SWALEC Divisions One East and West, and the north Wales champion, subject to criteria (no team from North Wales passed the Premiership criteria), having a chance to compete for a place in the Premiership. It was our stated objective to give north Wales rugby a chance to compete at this level of the game and provided they prove themselves on the field, and off the field with the financial and administrative standards required, they have that potential opportunity, along with the winners of Divisions One East and One West."
WRU Group Chief Executive Roger Lewis said, "The Principality Premiership is a crucial piece of Welsh rugby's international player development pathway and the changes introduced for this season will enhance that status.
"I sincerely thank Principality Building Society for their continued support of this vital tier of Welsh rugby, in this, their fifth season as title sponsors of this league which gives important game time and valuable experience to our professional players of the future."
Principality Premiership Champion Club Play-Offs
Play-Off One: Club 2 v Club 3 (at home of Club 2) Thursday 12 May 19.35
Play-Off final: Winner of Play-Off One v Club 1 (either at neutral venue or home of Club 1): Thursday 19 May 19.35, venue tbc
British and Irish Cup qualification Play-Offs
Play-Off One: Club 7 v Club 8 (at home of Club 7) Saturday 7 May, kick-off tbc
British and Irish Cup qualification Play-Off Final:
Winner of Play-Off One v Club 6 (either at neutral venue or home of Club 6) Thursday 12 May kick-off tbc
Relegation / Promotion Play-Offs
Play-Off One: Saturday 30 April 18.30, venue tbc
(a draw involving 14th placed club in Principality Premiership, winners of SWALEC Division One East and West (those clubs have all passed the Premiership criteria) will be made to determine which clubs play each other in Play-Off one, the winner of which will play the third team in the Play-Off final)
Play-Off final: Winners of Play-Off One v other club.
Saturday 7 May, venue and kick-off tbc