10 Dec, 12:23
Ireland's John Lacey will referee his first ever RBS 6 Nations match in February, while Alain Rolland is also included in the Elite Panel in what is his last season.
Clontarf v Co. Carlow, Castle Avenue Expectations are high on the northside of Dublin this year, as they have bolstered their squad since last year, with among others, Carlow's talisman of the past few seasons, Andy Melville. 'Tarf got off to a good start last week with an impressive away win at Ballymena, no mean feat as the Ulster side are also expected to be strong challengers this season.
Carlow, on the other hand, are coming off the back of a home defeat to Garryowen. Many are forecasting a long, hard season for the men from Oak Park and if they are to prove these pundits wrong, they will need to avoid getting into a losing habit from the start.
Blackrock v Belfast Harlequins, Stradbrook Blackrock lost to Shannon in Thomond last week by 24-11, but were right in it until the dying moments and so shouldn't be too downhearted. Harlequins are still trying to figure out how they lost 13-12 to Dungannon last week having dominated the second half. Both sides will be keen to avoid consecutive defeats to start their campaigns with.
Dublin University v Buccaneers, College Park When the satisfaction of having earned their first ever point in the top division seeps away, Trinity will reflect that they should have closed out the game against Galwegians last week, and that said 'Wegians only barely escaped the drop last year. They will also have to stop the juggernaut Buccs pack, who were central to their very satisfying 18-12 home win last week over Cork Constitution.
Dungannon v UCD, Stevenson Park Having convincingly swept away the challenge of Lansdowne by 23-3 last week, UCD will be thinking they can get their campaign away to a flier if they can win this one. Bolstered by the availability of surplus Leinster stars James Norton, Brian O'Riordan and David Blaney, they may just possess too much running ability. Dungannon are buoyed by claiming their first ever opening day win in the top division, and useful debuts by Gareth Steenson and David Spence.
Sunday Garryowen v Galwegians, Dooradoyle Has the look of a home win about it, as Garryowen did what was required of them last week versus Carlow, with Ray Niland in try-scoring form. Galwegians, despite doing well in salvaging a draw late on against Trinity last week, may find Garryowen a tougher nut to crack.