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LANSDOWNE v UCD, Aviva Stadium back pitch
Preview: Lansdowne will open their defence of the Division 1A title with a really tough test against UCD on the back pitch at the Aviva Stadium.
The students showed when beating Shannon 42-0 in the relegation/promotion play-off at the end of last season that they are more than capable of making an impact in the top flight.
Danny Kenny has gone to London Irish but there is plenty of talent remaining, most notably through the pace of Sam Coghlan Murray, Andrew Boyle and Barry Daly in their back-three.
UCD beat Lansdowne in the Leinster Senior League Cup recently but both sides were well understrength. The big question for Lansdowne is how they are going to get on without out-half Craig Ronaldson, now on Connacht's books.
Despite having to rejig his side to some extent because of the loss of Ronaldson and others, Lansdowne head coach Mike Ruddock is sure to put a very strong line-up on the park.
Former Munster back Scott Deasy has joined from Cork Constitution and it will be interesting to see if he features against the students.
Recent League Meetings - Saturday, January 26, 2008: Lansdowne 16 UCD 29, the RDS; Saturday, January 16, 2010 - UCD 22 Lansdowne 33, Belfield
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Lansdowne to win by 6-10 points
BALLYNAHINCH v CORK CONSTITUTION, Ballymacarn Park
Preview: It is great to have an Ulster side back in the top flight and a good one at that. Ballynahinch were hugely impressive in topping Division 1B last season.
Remember, they finished ahead of UCD which was quite an achievement. They have one of the most consistent players around in centre Stuart Morrow.
Their opening home game against Cork Constitution should give them some idea where they stand.
Cork Con were somewhat more erractic than usual in the league last season, but they did finish their year really well with a fine victory over St. Mary's in the Ulster Bank Bateman Cup final.
Tom Mulcahy, Mick O'Driscoll and Terry Dillon make up the new coaching set-up following the departure of Brian Walsh.
Winger Cronan Healy has gone back to Australia, while second rows Brian Hayes and Philip Donnellan are trying their luck in France - but Cork Con are still expected to be very competitive under the captaincy of scrum half Gerry Hurley.
Recent League Meetings - N/A
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Ballynahinch to win by 1-5 points
GARRYOWEN v DOLPHIN, Dooradoyle
Preview: In theory, Garryowen should be more competitive this season following the relegation of Shannon and UL Bohemians to Division 1B.
But that is not always the way it works out. For much of last season, they were up at the top of the table alongside Lansdowne but they eventually ran out of steam.
They have a top class coaching set-up led by Tom Tierney and Paul Neville, while their recent 70-10 anihiliation of Richmond in the first round of the Munster Senior Cup suggests that they are in reasonable shape.
Dolphin are always competitive. David O'Callaghan is an outstanding back rower and they have made a top class signing in Ireland Under-20 winger Darren Sweetnam.
Recent League Meetings - Friday, September 28, 2012: Garryowen 19 Dolphin 3, Dooradoyle; Saturday, April 13, 2013: Dolphin 6 Garryowen 15, Musgrave Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Garryowen to win by 1-5 points
OLD BELVEDERE v CLONTARF, Anglesea Road
Preview: After a couple of seasons of having to put in a late burst to avoid relegation, Old Belvedere would like nothing better than to make a good start to their campaign.
But that is going to be very difficult against a hugely consistent Clontarf outfit. Andy Wood's team enjoyed a top class campaign last season before going down 31-26 in what proved to be league title-deciding game against Lansdowne.
The north Dubliners should be there and there abouts again this season. Old Belvedere, for their part, have a new coach in the former Garryown man Paul Cunningham.
No doubt, he will be looking for his team to continue to play an expansive game with promising number 8 Jack Conan and full-back Danny Riordan two key players.
Recent League Meetings - Friday, November 30, 2012: Clontarf 14 Old Belvedere 13, Castle Avenue; Friday, March 1, 2013: Old Belvedere 13 Clontarf 41, Anglesea Road
IrishRugby.ie: Clontarf to win by 6-10 points
ST. MARY'S COLLEGE v YOUNG MUNSTER, Templeville Road
Preview: It has been a difficult lead-up to the league for St. Mary's with their new skipper Darragh Fanning spending his time on the wing for Leinster.
Darren Hudson has also featured for the province, while two more of their leading backs from last season, Philip Brophy and Stephen Grissing, have retired. But St. Mary's have made a very good signing in former Dublin University out-half Cathal Marsh.
Young Munster have seen their player-coach Mike Prendergast and out-half Shane O'Leary depart to Grenoble. John Staunton and Mick Lynch form the Cookies' new coaching set-up.
They have had a difficult enough start to the season, but there have been rumours that they are trying to get ace place-kicker Willie Staunton back from Terenure College.
Recent League Meetings - Saturday, October 6, 2012: Young Munster 16 St. Mary's College 14, Tom Clifford Park; Saturday, April 20, 2013: St. Mary's College 44 Young Munster 24, Templeville Road
IrishRugby.ie: St. Mary's College to win by 1-5 points
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