With only 50 days left to go (Thursday, 8 April) before the inaugural Magners League Grand Final, no fewer than three of the top five teams chasing Play-Off places will be in action in the Heineken Cup quarter-finals this weekend.
The Magners League has provided the last two European champions – Munster in 2008 and Leinster in 2009 – and the winner in three of the past four seasons. There are also three Magners League teams in the last eight of the Amlin Challenge Cup.
But while reigning champions Leinster, Munster and the Ospreys will be hoping to take a step nearer the Heineken Cup final in Paris on 22 May, and Connacht, Cardiff Blues and the Scarlets chase glory in the Challenge Cup, nobody is forgetting their biggest domestic date.
On Saturday, 29 May, the Magners League title will be decided at the Grand Final and the race for a place in the final four couldn’t be keener as the countdown clock reaches 50 days to go.
With the top four teams qualifying for the Play-Offs this season, the semi-finals would look like this with three rounds left to play – Leinster v Glasgow Warriors and Munster v Edinburgh.
But the Ospreys, Newport Gwent Dragons and even Cardiff Blues in seventh place haven’t given up on the chance of reaching the top four before the season ends.
"The standard of the Magners League has improved dramatically. You have seen that over the last few years with teams reaching quarter and semi-finals in Europe," said Munster skipper Paul O’Connell.
"The tougher the competition you are playing in domestically, the better it is for your Heineken Cup chances. In the past, when the Magners League was a smaller competition, we found it difficult to cope with some of the teams in the latter stages of Europe who were more used to playing at that level week in, week out.
"Having played that Magners League game against Leinster last weekend will have been good for us going into the Heineken Cup quarter-finals. We played in a 26,000 stadium that was full to capacity and there was massive media interest around the fixture.
"The Play-Offs are a great thing for the Magners League and there is a big battle on for those top four positions. That makes the Magners League a great competition.
"If you can be in the knock-out stages of the Magners League and the Heineken Cup, you can look forward to playing in big games in front of big crowds in good conditions."