New PRO12 season launched in Belfast

Andy Irvine, Chairman of the RaboDirect PRO12 today launched this year's competition in Belfast at the Titanic Experience in the presence of all 12 Clubs' captains and coaches.

This year's competition will kick on the 6th of September with Scarlets playing the current champions Leinster.  The 22 rounds of competition will be followed by play-offs for the top 4 teams and a final to be held on May 31st 2014.

Commenting at the Launch, Andy Irvine noted the continued growth of the competition over the last number of years with 4.3% increase in match attendance last season and increase TV viewership with figures in excess of 1.2 million.  The recently launched RaboDirect PRO12 YouTube channel also experienced remarkable traffic with close to a million views.

"We are proud of our competition” said Andy Irvine, "And would like to thank RaboDirect for their sponsorship over the last couple of years.  Their support and enthusiasm has been key in growing the PRO12 and we are looking forward to another season of growth and development.”

"Our competition is a breeding ground for developing young players and exciting open rugby which last season saw 526 tries which is almost 4 tries per match.  The representation of the RaboDirect Pro12 players on the successful Lions Tour to Australia was the highest with 24 of the original 37 coming from the Celtic regions.”

Andy Irvine also thanked Belfast City for their warm generous welcome and the use of this unique location.  He also thanked sponsors, media and fans for their ongoing support of the RaboDirect PRO12.

Tourism Minister Arlene Foster (Pictured with the captains and PRO12 trophy) said: "It is a great honour to welcome the Rabo Direct PRO12 players and officials to Belfast for the launch of the 2013-14 season, which promises to be every bit as exciting as previous years.

"Ulster Rugby is one of our iconic symbols, with the team and fans playing an important role as ambassadors for Northern Ireland, both at home and abroad. I look forward to seeing visiting fans from places as far apart as Glasgow and Treviso at the newly redeveloped Ravenhill, where they can be assured of the very best in hospitality and facilities."