The 2010/11 season of the Magners League kicks off on Friday night with games in Glasgow, where last season’s grand finalists Leinster are the visitors, and in Belfast as reigning champions, the Ospreys, try to overturn Ulster.
Home side Glasgow may appear to have the advantage in Scotland, as Leinster have won just one of their opening round games over the last six seasons, whereas in Belfast, the Ospreys should be the favourites having only once before begun a Magners League season with defeat.
However, in what will be the tenth season of Celtic Rugby, the highlight of the weekend could be the first Magners League appearances of the two Italian teams, Aironi Rugby and Benetton Treviso on Saturday.
Benetton Treviso take to the field first, welcoming the Scarlets to the Stadio Monigo in Treviso. The Italian champions are packed full of experienced home internationals and it will be a tough test for the Scarlets in their first outing of the new season.
As a new franchise, Aironi Rugby have recruited well over the summer, enticing the likes of Marco Bortolami back home and adding a sprinkling of non-Italian players such as French international Julian Laharrague.
Aironi, however, have drawn the short straw, visiting Cork to face former European and Magners League champions Munster in their first game.
The opening round’s remaining two fixtures also take place on Saturday night. The Cardiff Blues welcome Edinburgh in a repeat of last season’s round one game that saw the visitors take the spoils by the narrowest of margins – 22-21.
And Connacht host the Newport Gwent Dragons at the Sportsground, hoping to maintain a home record that has seen the westerners lose just one of their last six Magners League games at the Galway venue.
MAGNERS LEAGUE – ROUND 1 FIXTURES:
Friday, September 3 –
Glasgow Warriors v LEINSTER, Firhill Stadium, 7.05pm (live RTE 2/BBC ALBA)
ULSTER v Ospreys, Ravenhill, 7.05pm (live BBC 2 NI/BBC 2 Wales)
Saturday, September 4 –
CONNACHT v Newport Gwent Dragons, the Sportsground, 5.30pm (live TG4)
Cardiff Blues v Edinburgh, Cardiff City Stadium, 6.30pm (live S4C)
Benetton Treviso v Scarlets, Stadio Monigo, 7.05pm local time/6.05pm Irish time (live Dahlia TV)
MUNSTER v Aironi Rugby, Musgrave Park, 7.30pm (live RTE 2)