Brumbies and Reds to meet in 2014 opener
October 8, 2013
ACT Brumbies will extend on their growing rivalry with Queensland Reds in the opening round © Getty Images
The reigning Australian Conference winners - ACT Brumbies - will start life without recently departed coach Jake White with a 2014 season-opening clash against Queensland on February 22.
New South Wales Waratahs and Western Force will kick-off their respective campaigns a day later with a Sunday afternoon local derby at Allianz Stadium in Sydney.
Melbourne Rebels will have to wait a week longer to get their campaign underway, when they host the Cheetahs at AAMI Park in a Round 3 clash.
All 15 teams will play 16 regular season fixtures, including home-and-away clashes with teams in their own conference as well as matches against four of the five teams in the other two conferences.
Returning Waratah Kurtley Beale will meet his former Rebels team-mates on May 23 in Melbourne.
There is also the mouth-watering prospect of a showdown between dual internationals Sonny Bill Williams and Israel Folau when the Waratahs travel to Hamilton to meet two-time defending champions, the Chiefs, the following weekend.
Williams is yet to announce whether he'll stay in rugby league with the Sydney Roosters or return to rugby union to play for the Chiefs and All Blacks.
The 28-year-old will make his announcement in the next fortnight and is expected to return to New Zealand after claiming his second NRL title on Sunday night.
Former NRL star Benji Marshall will return to Sydney on February 7 with his new side Auckland Blues for a trial match against the Waratahs.
The ex-Wests Tigers five-eighth will play his first regular-season clash on Australian soil in Round 8 in early April against the Brumbies in Canberra.
The finals series begins in late July, with the eventual champion crowned on August 2.
Concussion, relegation and the mother of all surprises - it's the Monday Maul.
Huw Richards assesses where Wales are after a mixed Six Nations, with front row seats still very much available for the World Cup
John Mitchell lapped up the action on 'Sensational Saturday' - but warns not to expect a repeat come Rugby World Cup time later this year
Craig Dowd warns England, Ireland and Wales they should play to their strengths rather than those of the All Blacks and the Wallabies