Following last week's Top 14 kick-off, this weekend sees the return of Guinness Premiership and Magners League action as Leinster and Wasps begin their campaigns to retain their domestic titles.
The 2008/09 Magners League gets under way on Friday night and the ten team league will feature a host of new southern hemisphere talent including World Cup winner CJ Van der Linde (Leinster), Bakkies Botha (Ulster), and former All Black Kees Meuws who has moved from Castres to Llanelli Scarlets. The 2008 Heineken Cup champions Munster start their domestic campaign away to Edinburgh at the "The Castle" on Friday evening while League champions Leinster will face Cardiff Blues in the opener.
In England the long race for domestic honours and European qualification also starts this weekend and the action will include the now traditional London double header at Twickenham. 2008 Heineken Cup semi-finalists London Irish will return to the scene of their European defeat to Toulouse when they will face current English champions Wasps on Saturday while the second half of the Twickenham bill sees Harlequins meet another losing Heineken Cup semi-final side in Saracens.
As part of the build-up to next month's Cardiff 2014 Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup finals weekend, ERC has joined forces with the WRU, Cardiff Blues and adidas to develop an annual grassroots community rugby programme targeting young players.
The Ulster Rugby full back, Jared Payne (No 15), has been suspended for two (2) weeks following an independent Disciplinary Hearing in Dublin arising from the Heineken Cup quarter-final match against Saracens at Ravenhill Stadium on Saturday, 5 April.