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.
"It is not the winning but the spirit of fair play, enjoyment and safety that are paramount" - this is the motto of Rascal Rugby in Ballymena.
Mini Rugby has been in existence at Ballymena for quite a number of years.
This has grown to almost 200 enthusiastic children turning out every Saturday along with their coaches, who are largely parents that take the step on to the coaching ladder and undergo the basic coaching course.
In addition there are quite a number of parents present giving their support, mainly at the many match days and end of season tournaments.
It is both pleasing and satisfying to see players who have come through the Mini and Youth systems regularly turning out for the Ballymena first team and even Ulster Development squads.
However, Ballymena have now gone for a younger starting age group with 'Rascal Rugby' - see www.ballymenarfc.com - under the management and watchful eye of former top referee Ally McKay.
Up to 60 children aged four and five years, along with their parents, brave the elements to ensure they get the opportunity to start learning one of the best team sports in the world.
With a strong Youth section also at Ballymena RFC, it does the heart good to walk around Eaton Park on a Saturday morning and witness the activity of hundreds of young people taking part in sport.