Leo Cullen can’t come out and say it directly but with the cohort of Ireland internationals that return for the visit of Dragons, this match marks a significant ramp-up in proceedings.

The seasonal bows of Johnny Sexton, Garry Ringrose, James Ryan and the return from injury of Josh van der Flier, should be enough to attract a large crowd to the RDS as the Guinness Pro14 and Champions Cup winners hold court for the first time this season.

Aiming to spoil the party are Bernard Jackman’s Dragons but the ex-Leinster hooker has already admitted that their priority is a "massive" home game against Zebre next week.

Expect cobwebs to be blown off as Leinster look to get last week's defeat to Scarlets out of their system. 

"The last couple of weeks felt like the start of [the season]," said Cullen.

"There are lots of parts of our first couple of games where we can focus on getting better, we can be mentally connected better in the game for the whole game, we are allowing ourselves to drift."


Desperate for a positive start to their season, Ulster could not have scripted - in terms of drama and feelgood factor - their opening two games any better. 

John Cooney – a man as determined as any to force his way into Joe Schmidt’s plans – kicked late winners against Edinburgh and Scarlets, meaning new coach Dan McFarland arrives in South Africa with eight points from a possible 10 safely gathered. 

He was late coming on board as he negotiated his way out of a Scotland contract and this trip provides a good opportunity to build up a bond with the players. Doing it on the back of two wins is, obviously, better than two narrow defeats, however those losses would have been talked up.

The Southern Kings are bottom of Conference B and Ulster, despite surviving a scare last here year, should get the job done on Sunday.

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for...

That’s the ovewhelming feeling as ex-Leinster out-half Joey Carbery gets his first start for his new club.

Limited game time in his preferred position forced the move; in the Athy man’s own words, "I wanted to be playing more and kind of get out of the shadow of Johnny".

Not so good for Leinster, great for Johann van Graan and, down the road, Ireland.

The return of Peter O’Mahony, Tadhg Beirne and Chris Cloete for the Ospreys clash tonight on the new 3G pitch at Musgrave Park also adds to the mix, while Allen Clarke's visitors have arrived without the bulk of Alun-Wyn Jones, George North, Justin Tipuric and Bradley Davies.

Munster never got a foothold in the game during the first half of their defeat to Glasgow and they'll be extra conscious of getting off to a good start. 

But all eyes will be on the 22-year-old fly-half as a new era begins, all the more so at T minus 12 months and eight days to the World Cup.

This cross conference clash presents new coach Andy Friend with his first away assignment.

They almost stole a win against Glasgow two weeks ago but accounted for Zebre quite comfortably last week.

Ireland players Kieran Marmion and Ultan Dillane start and Bundee Aki is on the bench.

Edinburgh are nought from two but were within a score in the defeats to Ulster and Ospreys.

"They like to play a structured game," says Friend of the hosts. "It’s how we control what we need to do and how we nullify what they’re trying to throw at us."

It’s Connacht’s first visit to Murrayfield since their 2016 Pro12 final win, and they’ve won on three of their last four games here.