As the Guinness Six Nations heads towards its climax this weekend thoughts are naturally turning towards the autumn.
For the elite players and most fans that means the Rugby World Cup in Japan but for the day to day running of the sport the focus is just as much on domestic competition.
Media reports this morning suggest that the Guinness PRO 14 will start four weeks later than this season in September and will carry on throughout the World Cup, just as is already confirmed to be the case for the French Top 14 tournament.
The Gallagher Premiership in England will not start until October 20th, the weekend of the Quarter Finals.
The Guinness PRO14 fixture list will not be confirmed for a few weeks yet but it seems to be the case that the first round of games will take place on the weekend of Friday 27th to Sunday 29th September.
There will be three rounds played before a break for the weekend of the World Cup Quarter Finals on October 19th and 20th.
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Rounds four and five will take place the same weekends as the World Cup Semi-Finals and Final in Japan.
The number of fans travelling to Japan from Ireland is likely to be in the thousands and many of those would traditionally have been among the first to take up season ticket allocations around the provinces.
Their missing out on probably two home games in the Pro 14 will be of concern to management at Leinster, Ulster, Connacht and Munster though with the first two rounds of the Heineken Cup getting underway two weeks after the Final the fear of missing out on those could be enough to make purchase still a priority.
As things stand in the Pro 14 all four of Ireland’s provinces are in a position to qualify automatically for next season’s Heineken Cup which would be a fantastic achievement.
Given the clash with the World Cup though Connaught, in particular, will be keen to avoid the quirk of the fixtures this year that saw them play four home games in the first five rounds of competition.
This season’s final round of matches in the Pro 14 include Irish Derby games with Munster hosting Connaught and Ulster hosting Leinster on the last weekend in April. The Final series gets underway the following weekend with the Final down for decision at Celtic Park in Glasgow on May 25th.