With it being 20 years since the original Celtic League was formed, things have once again been changed around for the 2021/2022 season. What was previously known as the Pro 14, is now the United Rugby Championship.
Four South African teams have joined the fray after the Southern Kings folded and the Toyota Cheetahs were booted in favour of the Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers.
So how exactly is this new league set up? And what will it mean for the Irish provinces? Here are the answers to those burning questions.
How will the league be structured?
With two teams being added to the mix, it allows for organisers to split the league up into four separate pools.
The Irish Shield consists of Leinster, Munster, Connacht and Ulster while the Scottish and Italian Shield will see two the Italian sides (Benetton and Zebre) competing against Edinburgh and Glasgow.
— United Rugby Championship (URC) (@URCOfficial) September 23, 2021
The four new South African sides will compete for the South African Shield, while Cardiff, Dragons, Ospreys and Scarlets will battle it out for the Welsh Shield.
Teams will play every side in their pool twice both home and away and each team from the other pools once. After an 18 game regular season, the top eight teams will compete in the playoffs.
The winner of each of the pools will also automatically qualify for the Champions Cup the following year.
When does it start?
You won’t have to wait long for kick-off as the opening fixtures begin tonight. Three matches are on the docket as Zebre take on the Lions at 17:35pm. Connacht kick-off their campaign against Cardiff away from home at 19:45pm, while Ulster host Glasgow Warriors at the same time at the Kingspan.
Where can I watch the games?
Back in June it was announced that games will be free-to-air as RTÉ and TG4 secured broadcasting rights for the new championship.
Cardiff vs Connacht will be broadcast tonight on TG4, with coverage starting at 19:30pm. Ulster vs Glasgow will be broadcast on Premier Sport 1, with coverage starting at 19:35pm.
Drink it in. It’s #URC Game Day! 🙌
— Connacht Rugby (@connachtrugby) September 24, 2021
Leinster’s game at the RDS against the Bulls will be broadcast on TG4 on Saturday, with coverage starting at 4:50pm (kick-off 5:15pm).
Later in the day, Munster’s game at Thomond Park against the Sharks will be broadcast on RTÉ 2 from 7pm (kick-off at 7:35 pm).