The League is expanded to 16 teams with the introduction of a third Scottish side - the Borders, but the teams still only meet once during the season.
The tournament begins on 30 August 2002 with a newly introduced bonus point scheme awarding a try bonus point for four tries or more and a losing bonus point for sides defeated by seven points or less. There are four points available for a win and two for a draw.
The quarter-finals, between the top four finishers in each pool, follow in late November. The semis are in early January.
The second final takes place at Millennium Stadium on 1 February 2003 and sees Munster defeat Neath 37-17 in front of over 30,000 spectators.