18 May, 11:09
IRFU Chief Executive Philip Browne has issued a statement following confirmation of Ronan O'Gara's decision to retire from playing professional rugby.
However, with the introduction this year of play-offs to decide the Magners League champions, there is the exciting prospect of semi-finals to be held over the weekend of May 14 with the season concluding in the first ever Magners League final on the weekend of May 28-30.
Current champions Munster will begin the defence of their title with a trip to Scotland to face Glasgow Warriors at Firhill Arena, and European champions, Leinster, also start their campaign on the road with a visit to Llanelli to face the Scarlets.
Elsewhere, in Wales, the Anglo-Welsh cup holders, Cardiff Blues, welcome Edinburgh for the opening match in their new home at Cardiff City Stadium.
And the visit of Ulster to Rodney Parade - Brian McLaughlin's first competitive game in charge of the province - and the Ospreys' Galway clash with Connacht will make up the rest of the fixtures for the opening round.
The first provincial derby of the season will see Connacht entertain Ulster at the Sportsground in late September, while Leinster and Munster will lock horns a week later at the RDS.
These fixtures are weekend only dates. Specific dates, kick-off times and in some cases venues, will be released later after consultations with broadcast partners and the individual teams.
For the full list of 2009/10 fixtures, please click here.