100 days to the historic first Magners League

The countdown will drop into double figures tomorrow (Friday) when the tournament resumes with three key matches, Ulster Rugby against Newport Gwent Dragons, Glasgow Warriors against Cardiff Blues and defending champions Munster against Edinburgh.

The introduction this season of Play-Off matches between the top four finishers and then the Grand Final on Saturday, 29 May, has massively raised the profile of the tournament and added enormous interest for players and fans alike.

Glasgow Warriors are the current leaders and head coach Sean Lineen is glowing in his praise for the new format.

"Having the Play-Offs and then Grand Final is absolutely fantastic - and long overdue," he said. "All the teams are talking about it and there is still so much riding on it for so many teams.

"We are only just over halfway through the tournament so we have no illusions as to how tough it is going to be to stay where we are, it is such a strong competition and Cardiff Blues on Friday night is a massive test for us.

"It has been a real challenge for us to get where we are - and it is going to be a real challenge to stay there.

"The tournament is so tight that you can go from first or second to fifth or sixth in no time at all and you simply cannot relax at all and, while we may have been regarded as the poor cousins of the Celtic nations, I believe we have improved year by year and now we are playing with more belief."

The Ospreys are leading the chasing bunch and head coach Sean Holley declared:

"It certainly focuses the mind that the countdown to the Grand Final is at the 100 days mark and with eight matches to go we are well placed in second spot.

"The introduction of the play-offs means the interest will be kept going right to the end of the season and ensures that the most consistent sides will be there at the end.

"But this is a crucial time for us with two important games coming up during the 6 Nations when we will obviously be without our international players.

"It is difficult enough playing Connacht at any time of the year - and we always seem to get them when we are without our leading players - and then we have to go to Edinburgh so this block of two matches will be critical."