The march towards the 2015 World Cup steps up a gear when the newly branded Guinness Pro 12 kicks off this weekend. Here is what to look forward to.
Munster v Edinburgh - Friday 5th September @ 1935.
Munster are the first of the Provinces in action this season. They entertain a side they beat by 32 points at Thomond Park last year and have lost all but one of their last 23 fixtures in Ireland. It is a great opportunity for Anthony Foley to get his tenure off to a winning start and put the embarrassing email saga behind him. The early fixtures are kind to Munster. They travel to Benetton Treviso next week, before home fixtures against the other Italian side Zebre and the Ospreys. They could head into next month's show down with Leinster at the Aviva, on the back of 4 straight wins.
Llanelli Scarlets v Ulster - Saturday 6th September @ 1435.
The Ulstermen start off with a trip to Wales where they won just once last season. Their last campaign came to a disappointing halt as they went out of Europe at home to Saracens and were once again unable to beat Leinster in the Pro 12 play offs. Captain Johann Muller, Coach Mark Anscombe and Director of Rugby David Humphreys have all moved on. The appointment of Les Kiss as interim boss seems inspired, even if it makes life hectic for the Ireland defence coach.
Connacht v Newport Gwent Dragons - Saturday 6th September @ 1700.
It could be a crucial season for Connacht. Coach Pat Lam has his feet under the table. They have made waves in bringing All Black legend Mils Muliaina to Galway. It seems that now is the time to repay the faith shown by the likes of Robbie Henshaw. Without the distractions of the European Cup, Connacht can focus on becoming a more consistent team. They have taken big scalps in the last few seasons, but the respect they crave won't come while they reside at the foot of the Pro 12 table.
Glasgow v Leinster - Saturday 6th September @ 1715.
The repeat of last season's final is the stand out fixture from the opening weekend. Leinster begin their quest for a third successive Pro 12 title with a trip to Scotstoun, where Glasgow have not lost since January. They have also had the entire summer to plan revenge for May's defeat. Despite finishing his first year in charge with silverware, it seems Matt O'Connor still has a lot to prove. There also a number 13 shirt to fill. Johnny Sexton is coming back, but not until next year.