Leinster begin defence of title against Cardiff Blues

Leo Cullen’s charges will spend the first two weekends of the season in Wales

Guinness Pro14 champions Leinster’s first home game is  against the Dragons on Saturday, September 15th. Photograph: Billy  Stickland/Inpho

Guinness Pro14 champions Leinster’s first home game is against the Dragons on Saturday, September 15th. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

 

Leinster will begin the defence of the Guinness Pro14 title against the Cardiff Blues on Friday, August 31st.

The champions will take the field in a match that pits the Champions Cup winners against the team that won the European Challenge Cup last season.

Leo Cullen’s charges will spend the first two weekends of the season in Wales as eight days later they make the trip to Parc y Scarlets. Leinster’s first home game in the tournament is against another Welsh club, the Bernard Jackman-coached Dragons on Saturday, September 15th, at the RDS (5.15pm).

Munster, Ulster and Connacht are all at home in the opening round of fixtures, on Saturday, September 1st, with the Glasgow Warriors heading for Galway, South Africa’s Toyota Cheetahs in Thomond Park and last year’s beaten Pro14 finalists Scarlets making the trip to Belfast.

The schedule has a familiar shape to it from an Irish perspective, albeit with slightly different dates, in that Leinster will host Munster at the Aviva stadium (Saturday, October 6th, 6.00pm) on the weekend prior to the opening round of fixtures in the Heineken Champions Cup while they will meet again between Christmas and the New Year, this time at Thomond Park.

The provinces will build up for Europe with two weekends of inter-provincial tussles, the first on Saturday, September 29th, when Connacht host Leinster at the Sportsground, while Ulster are due in Thomond Park. There are no inter-provincial matches during the Six Nations Championship window.

The composition of the two conferences of seven teams will remain the same as last year as the Pro14 stated that “the overriding factor in this decision was the ability to ensure equal home and away fixtures for each team across a two-year window. It also means that each team will have played away to all of the other sides in that same period.”

That translates into Leinster and Munster having only one fixture in South Africa this season and they each played away to the Southern Kings and the Cheetahs last season. It’s the reverse for Connacht and Ulster, with latter heading on their mini-tour first in mid-September and Connacht travelling to South Africa at the end of November and the start of December.

The final round of inter-provincial matches – Munster at home to Connacht and Ulster hosting Leinster - will take place on the final weekend of the league stage of the tournament, with the final, reputed if unconfirmed, to be heading for Celtic Park in Glasgow scheduled for Saturday, May 25th.

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