The 2009/10 Magners League season kicks off on Friday night with one of the highlights being Cardiff Blues' first competition fixture at their new stadium when they play last season's runners-up, Edinburgh.
The Blues have moved a mile-and-a-half across the Welsh capital to join forces with Cardiff City FC at the new, 26,000 all-seater Cardiff City Stadium.
Elsewhere on Friday night Ospreys travel to the Sportsground in Galway to face Connacht looking for a repeat of the victory they claimed in the same fixture last season, whilst Magners League Champions, Munster, head north to begin the defence of their title against Glasgow Warriors at Firhill Arena. Munster will be hoping it will be third time lucky as the then reigning champions have lost their opening game in the last two seasons.
On Saturday Heineken Cup winners Leinster are the visitors at Parc y Scarlets, the European champions have won on their last two visits to Llanelli, before the round wraps up on Sunday with the fixture between Newport Gwent Dragons and Ulster with the visitors looking for their first victory at Rodney Parade in three years.
This season's tournament will welcome 'home' British & Irish Lions Chris Cusiter (Glasgow) and Nathan Hines (Leinster) from sojourns in France, as well as another 2005 Lion, Gareth Cooper (Blues). They will boost to 37 the number of Lions players from 2001, 2005 and 2009 playing in the Magners League.
There will also be a sprinkling of top overseas talent to blend with the home grown stars. New Zealand legend Jerry Collins has joined the Ospreys while current Springbok centre Jean de Villiers is on his way to Munster at the end of the Tri Nations series. Australian international outside half Sam Norton-Knight has joined the Blues, as has former All Black centre Casey Laulala, while French international prop Julien Brugnaut has headed to Munster. Canadian World Cup star DTH van der Merwe has singed for Glasgow and former Brumbies and Western Force flanker Tamaiti Horua is Ulster bound.
Nearly 40 players were involved in the first Wales Under 18 training session of the season. WRU National Performance Manager Gethin Watts is excited at the potential shown by the group and expects the Regional Under 18 Championship to hone their skills even further.