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.
LEGENDS BACK ON HOME SOIL: Some of Ireland's greatest ever players returned recently from a hugely enjoyable trip to the World Rugby Legends Festival in Durban - all in one piece!
Captained by Mick Galwey, coached by Jeremy Davidson and managed by Paul Wallace, the Irish Legends team had a tough schedule playing against some of New Zealand's former greats, and renewing rivalries with their old foes from England and Argentina.
The highlight of the tournament, from an Irish perspective, came when recently retired winger Tyrone Howe bagged two tries in a defeat of England.
Without naming names, Davidson admitted: "I think there were one or two bodies that weren't good enough to really take a full part as they would have liked to. But it's all played in the spirit of the game.
"There was great camaraderie at the tournament and we all enjoyed it very much."
Davidson had his Dungannon troops back in training last Tuesday ahead of the new season, and the 32-year-old had time to coach some local kids when he was in South Africa.
He added: "We had a fantastic coaching clinic one day. 550 kids showed up and they had coaches from all over the world taking them for the day. It was a fantastic idea and something we should bring on all over the world."
HICKIE TO PUSH FOR 'STARTING BERTH': Former Leinster, London Irish and Worcester Warriors hooker Gavin Hickie has spoken of his determination to challenge for first team rugby at his new club Leicester.
The 26-year-old, who joined the Tigers last March, knows he will face tough competition from George Chuter and James Buckland for the number 2 jersey at Welford Road.
"It's definitely going to be interesting. I certainly didn't come up here to be third choice or even second choice. I've been spending too much time on the bench in the last few years, so it's about time I started pushing for a starting berth.
"The competition's obviously very tough," he told the Tigers' website. "James toured with the Saxons recently and George was with the England senior team, but I'm really keen to set down a marker and see where I can go."
Capped for Ireland at Under-19, Under-21 and 'A' levels, Hickie is hoping the move to Welford Road can help further his international aspirations.
The Dubliner said: "I'm aiming to be involved here as often as possible, and if you're playing for a club like Leicester, it will hopefully propel you on to further recognition.
"Shane Jennings has been here a year now and he's done very well. Shane's knocking on the Ireland door and Leo Cullen is up there as well, so I'm really hoping that a good run could set me up in terms of the national scene, but we'll just have to wait and see."
...Colin Atkinson in action against Dublin University last season...
ATKINSON TO CAPTAIN 'QUINS: Colin Atkinson is to captain AIB League Division One side Belfast Harlequins next season.
The young winger, known as 'Acky', will lead Andy Ward's first team at Deramore Park, while former London Irish player Keith Pyper, a noted full-back or out-half, has been chose as the club skipper for the 2006/07 campaign.
Last year's club captain Conor Keown, a hard-working prop, will act as 'Quins first team manager.
Atkinson, who can also play at full-back or centre, had stints at Ballynahinch and Armagh in recent seasons and was capped by the Ireland Under-21s. He even spent some of last season operating as a converted number 8 for 'Quins.
2005/06 marked Andy Ward's first season in charge and it saw 'Quins win the First Trust Ulster Senior Cup and finish sixth in the Division One table. Ward's men are due to face Currie in a friendly on August 20 at Deramore - this is the sixth season of their pre-season meeting with the Scots.
TERENURE ARRANGE TWO FRIENDLIES: The newly-promoted Terenure College, who were the top club in AIB League Division Two last season, have arranged two pre-season friendlies against Dublin opposition.
'Nure, who toured Argentina at the end of last month, will be at home to Bective Rangers on August 26 (kick-off tbc), while they will travel to Old Wesley on September 2 (kick-off tbc). Long-serving lock Dermot Quinn will captain the club for the 2006/07 season.