Ulster kick things off from an Irish perspective in this season’s RaboDirect PRO12 with a home tie against Glasgow Warriors at Ravenhill on Friday night.
Ulster begin the season with a home game for the sixth time in the past seven seasons, and beat Glasgow 28-14 at
Ravenhill in round 1 last season.
Ulster finished off last season’s RaboDirect PRO12 with three successive defeats – all to their three fellow Irish provinces. But the Ulstermen have won five of their last six clashes with Scottish opponents.
Expect a big crowd, thanks to strong season ticket sales, at the Sportsground on Saturday as Connacht host the Cardiff Blues. Both Connacht and the Blues have begun with an opening weekend victory for the past two seasons.
Connacht achieved their highest tournament finishing position last season (eighth), and won three of their last four games. Connacht have lost only one of their last six matches at the Sportsground, going down 20-16 to Munster last March.
Munster are on the road for their first game of the league as they travel to Edinburgh. Munster have begun their new campaign with a win in four of the past five seasons.
The Munstermen’s only victory away from home in their last four trips was that 20-16 success at Connacht in March. Munster have lost just one of their last ten encounters with Scottish opponents.
Leinster’s clash with the Scarlets has some family rivalry to it with the Easterby brothers involved in the backroom team for both sides – Guy Easterby is the Leinster team manager, while Simon Easterby is the new head coach for the Welsh side.
Since the tournament became a season-long one in 2003/04, amazingly Leinster have won in round one just once – 23-8 at home to Edinburgh in 2007. The only side to defeat the Leinstermen in the PRO12 after the 2011 Rugby World Cup was the Ospreys, who did it twice.
The Scarlets have not beaten Leinster in their last seven encounters in all competitions, since their 18-16 victory at Parc y Scarlets in the opening round of this competition in the 2009/10 season.
RABODIRECT PRO12 – ROUND 1 FIXTURES:
Friday, August 31 –
Newport Gwent Dragons v Zebre, Rodney Parade, 7pm
ULSTER v Glasgow Warriors, Ravenhill, 7.05pm (live BBC 2 Northern Ireland/BBC ALBA)
Benetton Treviso v Ospreys, Stadio di Monigo, 8.05pm local time (live Sport Italia/BBC 2 Wales)
Saturday, September 1 –
CONNACHT v Cardiff Blues, the Sportsground, 5pm
Scarlets v LEINSTER, Parc y Scarlets, 6.30pm (live TG4/S4C)
Edinburgh v MUNSTER, Murrayfield, 8pm (live RTÉ Two/BBC ALBA)