Ulster Rugby Chief Executive Shane Logan is excited that the Champions Cup draw has given the province the opportunity to host reigning European champions Toulon in Belfast.
EUROPEAN RUGBY CHAMPIONS CUP - POOL 3:
Leicester Tigers ULSTER
Ulster were placed in Pool 3 of the new European Rugby Champions Cup during today's draw in Neuchatel, Switzerland. Standing between them and a spot in the knockout stages are Toulon and familiar foes Leicester Tigers and the Scarlets.
Ulster will be meeting Toulon for the first time, with the French giants having won the Heineken Cup for a second successive time last month with a 23-6 final defeat of Saracens.
The mouth-watering fixture at Kingspan Stadium will provide local fans with the opportunity to see some of the world's best players such as Matt Giteau, Bakkies Botha and European Player of the Year Steffon Amitage. Toulon have also recruited James O'Connor, Leigh Halfpenny and Mamuka Gorgodze for the 2014/15 campaign.
The Ulstermen have faced Leicester in two of the past three years in European competition, and will be hoping to repeat last season's results by registering both home and away wins.
Ulster Rugby Chief Executive Shane Logan described the draw as 'tough, achievable and very exciting', stating: "We knew it was going to be tough - with now only 20 teams in the competition it makes it harder all round. We want to play at the top level and we certainly will.
"I don't think we have anything to fear - I'm not underestimating the task but we're getting better at winning away from home in the big games. Last year we won away to Leicester and Montpellier."
Logan was particularly looking forward to welcoming Toulon to Belfast next season, dubbing it 'a magnificent fixture'.
"It's mouth-watering. We believe we have, perhaps, Europe's best stadium and we want to have Europe's best teams playing at it. That's the beauty of this competition and that's the beauty of what we're trying to create here in Ulster.
"Toulon have a team that is star-studded with some of the world's best players and I know they'll bring a big crowd over and I know that our crowd will more than rival them. It's great for Ulster Rugby and it will be a pleasure to welcome them to Kingspan Stadium."
The two other games will undoubtedly draw big crowds to the home of Ulster Rugby, especially given the familiarity between the sides and how competitive a pool it is likely to be.
"We're well used to playing Leicester, having met them in two of the past three seasons and interestingly, when we've had them in our pool we've managed to go through to the quarter-finals," noted Logan.
"I think we are the only team in Europe to have gone through to the last-eight in each of the last four years. It will be tough, enjoyable, but we'll do our best to make it five years in a row.
"You can't underestimate the Scarlets. They beat us well away from home last season although we beat them well in Belfast. It's always a tough battle - they play attractive rugby and have a fine coach in Simon Easterby."
The Ireland Under-18 and Under-19 squads had a busy Easter period with seven matches played in Ashbourne, Cardiff, Llanelli, Caerphilly and Bordeaux. Check out some of the tries scored. Full match reports are available on www.irishrugby.ie.
Speaking to RTE Radio rugby correspondent Michael Corcoran, Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt was asked about prioritising players playing in Ireland when it comes to national selection over those who are based overseas.
In an interview broadcast on RTE Radio 1's 'Sunday Sport' programme, Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt discussed the challenges and opportunities presented by the summer tour to the USA and Japan, and also looked ahead to next month's Rugby World Cup Pool Draw.
Speaking about working with the provinces and monitoring players' progress, Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt told RTE Radio 1: "For us, having the best quality of performance within the provinces, getting some really good coaching from the provincial coaches, which we know is happening at the moment, that's the foundation that we need because in the end we get the players in a match week pretty much."
In an interview with RTE Radio rugby correspondent Michael Corcoran, Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt confirmed that Girvan Dempsey, Felix Jones and Ronan O'Gara will be incorporated into the coaching group for the upcoming summer tour to the USA and Japan.
IRFU National Talent Development Manager Hendrik Kruger says the Easter age-grade internationals give the Ireland Under-18 and Under-19 players 'the chance to represent their country and experience international rugby' and are 'the highlight of their season'.
The Ireland Under-18 Clubs & Schools team (sponsored by PwC) played the England U-18 Counties side in the first of two matches at Ashbourne RFC this week. Check out the highlights from Wednesday's entertaining clash.
Four of our stadiums through the eyes of four Irish sporting legends. O'Driscoll on Aviva Stadium, Brogan on Croke Park, Matthews on Kingspan Stadium and O'Connell on Thomond Park. The world is invited #Ireland2023.
Irish Rugby TV caught up with flanker Sean O'Brien to get his reaction following Ireland's hard-earned 13-9 victory over RBS 6 Nations champions England. He singled out man-of-the-match Peter O'Mahony for special praise.
Peter O'Mahony reflects on what went wrong for Ireland in Cardiff and tells Irish Rugby TV that he is focusing on the squad and their work this week ahead of the final Six Nations game against England.
The Ireland squad paid a visit to Monaghan last week and held an open training session in Monaghan RFC. We spoke to Andrew Trimble after the session which was attended by over 2,000 cheering supporters.