The fixtures list gifted Connacht's marketing department a great tagline - #MonthofChampions - but that's about it as positives go from such a tough start: Glasgow, Scarlets and Leinster have been at the top end, as have Connacht, in the last four seasons.
They managed a losing bonus point in Edinburgh last week to add to the win over Zebre in round 2 and need to get something out of this game against Wayne Pivac's visitors, who have Rhys Patchell back at out-half.
🎥 | With our #MonthOfChampions clash with Scarlets less than two days away, we got the thoughts of @Tiernanoh11 on the weekend's opponents. #StrongerInGreen— Connacht Rugby (@connachtrugby) September 20, 2018
🎟 ➡️ https://t.co/iWIkaAp25w pic.twitter.com/OjZtZoO60C
Scarlets beaten Leinster and Treviso and blew a late lead in Belfast. The Month of Champions is great and all that but it means nothing comes easy.
Robin Copeland makes his debut and Bundee Aki starts for the first time this season. "Scarlets are a quality side and we expect a huge challenge from them. They are one of the top teams in this competition, so it is a massive game for us," said Andy Friend.
So far, so good, so where are Leinster?
Lots of boxes checked by the champions after wins over Dragons and Cardiff and a defeat at Scarlets.
The front-liners have been eased back into action with flanker Dan Leavy one of the last big names outstanding - he's on the bench, while Sean O'Brien returned to training during the week.
Edinburgh will attempt to do the double over Irish sides after last week's win over Connacht. That result got them off the mark after narrow losses to Ulster and Ospreys.
"It’s going to be a tough evening for us but one we look forward to," Richard Cockerill said as he welcomes back internationals Ross Ford, Allan Dell and Magnus Bradbury among nine changes.
A win for Leo Cullen's side will set them up nicely for next week's game against Connacht.
"Players know that based on the next few weeks, it will have a knock-on effect what takes place in November with Ireland," Cullen said.
Mass exodus of experienced players? Check. New coach arriving in late? Check. Losing with two minutes left in first two games? Check. Fly to South Africa minus Rory Best, Jordi Murphy, Jacob Stockdale and Ian Henderson? Check.
Still, Ulster are three from three in Conference B and in addition to the 12 points gained, team-spirit will have been boosted no end by the manner of the last-gasp wins.
ICYMI | We attended a local school in Bloemfontein to coach and spend time with children from surrounding townships...https://t.co/qpXQsgNjU7— Ulster Rugby (@UlsterRugby) September 21, 2018
The getting-the-job-done victory in Port Elizabeth last weekend against the Kings saw first starts for academy players Eric O’Sullivan and Angus Kernohan, while Ireland U20s standout Angus Curtis scored his first try.
If any of the provinces needed to get off to a flyer, it was Dan McFarland’s men.
Cheetahs are bottom on Conference B and Ulster should come in to next week’s game v Munster unbeaten.
With Joey Carbery safely through his first start, Johann van Graan reintroduces Ireland number 8 CJ Stander for the trip to Wales. He joins Peter O'Mahony and Chris Cloete in the back row - both of whom impressed against admittedly poor Ospreys last week.
The inclusion of JJ Hanrahan at full-back may be a sign of things to come. It is almost certain that Carbery is locked in at out-half and the Kerryman could carve his future in Red at 15.
Academy hooker Diarmuid Barron may make his debut off the bench, while Alex Wootton continues his return to full match fitness with Munster A.
Cardiff are the Challenge Cup champions but have yet to find their stride this season, counting defeats to Zebre and Treviso among their three losses.
"We let ourselves down with our physicality on the weekend and they don't come much more physical than Munster so we have to see it as a challenge and opportunity to get back on the horse," said flanker Ellis Jenkins.