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 first up for Italian new boys is a trip to the Newport Gwent Dragons in Wales, whilst reigning champions the Ospreys face the reverse journey as they play the second Italian outfit, Benetton Treviso, at Stadio di Monigo.
Last season's beaten RaboDirect PRO12 finalists and reigning European champions Leinster start the new campaign in Wales with a game at Parc y Scarlets in Llanelli, whilst the other two 2011/12 play-off contenders, Glasgow Warriors and Munster, face away trips to Ulster and Edinburgh respectively.
The Cardiff Blues' visit to Galway to play Connacht completes the opening weekend's fixtures.
Round 2 sees Cardiff play their first home RaboDirect PRO12 game since completing their return to Cardiff Arms Park when Edinburgh are the visitors.
One new ground will make its bow when the Scarlets are the first visitors to Scotstoun Stadium, whilst Connacht will play Zebre in the opening match at Stadio XXV Aprile.
Leinster, Munster and Ospreys host the remaining three games in the second round.
2012/13 RaboDirect PRO12 Opening Fixtures -
Round 1 - August 31/September 1/2
Benetton Treviso v Ospreys
Connacht v Cardiff Blues
Edinburgh v Munster
Newport Gwent Dragons v Zebre
Scarlets v Leinster
Ulster v Glasgow Warriors
Round 2 - September 7/8/9
Cardiff Blues v Edinburgh
Glasgow Warriors v Scarlets
Leinster v Newport Gwent Dragons
Munster v Benetton Treviso
Ospreys v Ulster
Zebre v Connacht