Ulster Rugby will return to competitive action on September 1st hoping that the new rugby season will bring a parting of the clouds that descended over the Ravenhill Road during much of the last campaign.
Much publicised difficulties both on and off the pitch for Ulster last year, culminated in the province failing to make the Pro14 play offs, being dumped out of Europe at the pool stage and the departure of Director of Rugby Les Kiss.
Ulster were subsequently seeded in the lowest pot when the draw for the incoming seasons European Champions Cup took place in Lausanne back in June and were handed a nasty looking group in the form of themselves, Scarlets, Leicester Tigers and Racing 92.
Ulster management and players will get an early opportunity to run their eye over one of their European opponents when they welcome the Scarlets to the Kingspan Stadium in their opening game of the Pro14 series.
Following the opener against their Welsh counterparts, Ulster will entertain Edinburgh under lights on Friday 7th September, before jetting off to South Africa to play the Cheetahs and the Southern Kings.
Most tantalising for Ulster fans may be the fixture congestion across the Christmas and New Year period, when the Belfast men will negotiate games against Irish rivals Munster, Connacht and Leinster as well as keeping one eye on their European commitments.
It is not yet known whether new coach Dan McFarland will have taken his seat by the start of the Pro14 campaign. The English man is under contract with the Scottish Rugby Union in his role as forwards until January 2019, however Ulster Rugby are keen to have the former Stade Francais and Connacht forward in place as soon as possible. A ‘plan B’ is in place that will see former Scarlets legend and Irish forwards coach Simon Easterby take charge as interim coach, should McFarland not be relieved off his duties.