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.
Welcome to the second installment of The North Terrace - where members of the Irish Rugby Supporters Club give their views on rugby.
This week, as Leinster make their competitive debut in the Magners League, one Leinster supporter and member of the Irish Rugby Supporters Club gives her views on the season ahead for the boys in blue.
Over to Sarah Lennon:
"Last season ended disappointingly for Leinster, even though we were in contention for the big two prizes until late on, and in the case of the Celtic League were denied by the width of a post. This season will hopefully see a shoring up of a leaky defence - the second worst in the league! Michael Cheika has brought in a lot of new faces, and it remains to be seen whether they can bed in, but early indications are that Chris Whitaker will be a useful addition and expect to see Luke Fitzgerald (Let's see if the latest poll on IrishRugby.ie backs you up - Ed) break through at times this season.
"Again the November internationals and the RBS 6 Nations will impact on the provinces in the league, and perhaps more so on Ulster this year with a few more of their players coming through into the national team.
"To build on last season will be difficult as it will mean that we either win the Magners League or reach the Heineken Cup final. Well maybe I'm over confident, but I have my tickets for Twickenham already! (Ed: Smart thinking Sarah!)"
Visitors to IrishRugby.ie don't fully share Sarah's optimism. In our most recent poll we asked you who you think will win the Magners League this season?
Munster and Ulster came in neck-and-neck at 32%, with Leinster on 27%. Only 6% went for Connacht while home team patriotism won out with only 3% suggesting that one of our Celtic Cousins from Wales or Scotland will win out.
The IRFU's official betting partner Paddy Power have Ulster at 10/3 to retain their title and Munster at 4/1 for league success, while Sarah Lennon's beloved Leinster are 7/2, so that ticket may be a good investment after all!
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