The race is now well and truly on for the Magners League title after the Celtic Rugby Board announced the details regarding the format of the Play-Off matches.
The date for the final, which will be known as the Magners League Grand Final, has been set for Saturday, 29 May, 2010, with a provisional kick-off of 6.30pm. The venue for the Grand Final will be determined by the final finishing positions of the four semi-finalists in their regular league campaign.
That was a vitally important rugby principle that the Celtic Rugby Board were determined to implement in this the first season of the exciting new, end of season format. Clubs will have until 8 March to nominate their choice of final venue should they be in the race for a Play-Off place.
"Getting the date and proposed kick-off time for the Grand Final was the first step, along with underlining the format for the Play-Off matches. As stated at the start of the season, the top four teams in the regular league will progress into the Play-Offs, with the top two teams enjoying home advantage," explained Celtic Rugby Director David Jordan.
"With no pre-determined venue for the staging of the Grand Final, the board has agreed the following principles to determine where the biggest game in the history of the Magners League shall be played.
"The team that reaches the Grand Final having achieved the highest finishing position in the regular Magners League shall have the right to nominate a venue of more than 18k capacity within its own Union's jurisdiction to host the game".
"All nominated venues will have to meet with the approval of the Celtic Rugby board, and its commercial requirements, and, in the unlikely event of neither finalist being able to nominate a suitable venue, the board will take the game to a ground of its choice."
The ruling on where the Grand Final will be staged follows the Super 14 model, where the highest placed team from the regular league season that reaches the final enjoys home advantage. This will add spice and excitement to the remaining 10 rounds of Magners League matches and ensure there is more than just a top four, Play-Off place to be won.
Michael Merrins, Managing Director, C&C Ireland added: "Today's announcement of the date for the Grand Final is the next step in the development of the tournament, and as Title Sponsors we are working closely with Celtic Rugby to ensure the Magners League Grand Final is a showpiece occasion for the league. With competition for places in the top four as tight as ever we are looking forward to some exhilarating matches over the festive period and beyond."
As the ninth round of fixtures approaches over the Christmas period, and the half-way mark in the regular season, it is interesting to note that only four points split the top seven sides and that every team has lost at least twice.
This is the most competitive Magners League campaign to date - there have been 16 losing bonus points in the 40 games played so far - and the action is only going to heat up over Christmas during 'Demolition Derby' time.
As the intensity, and the stakes, rise, the second half of the season is set to be even more thrilling as many of the world's greatest players battle against each other to try to win a place in the inaugural Magners League Grand Final.It promises to be a game not to be missed!