All throughout last season in the [then] Pro12 I kept harping on Leinster's difficult run-in...as in turned out although it didn't stop us getting a home semifinal, we were unable to do anything with it.
This time the tricky series of matches comes around at the start of the season, and although September is traditionally a shaky month for us, it's October that seems to be more challenging than usual.
We kick off away to the Dragons - this may not look like much on paper but we have had our problems there before and now they have rebranded including the addition of names familiar to Leinster fans in Bernard Jackman as coach and Zane Kirchner.
Next we kickoff our home campaign with the visit of the Cardiff Blues before we become the first Celtic team to travel to South Africa, hitting both of the new venues in rounds 3 & 4. We complete the month at home to Edinburgh and from there things really begin to take off.
In many ways our season could well depend on how we get on in our five matches from October 7 to November 3. Munster at the Aviva, our first two Champions Cup matches, then Ulster and Glasgow away. Yikes.
Of course I'm not saying we're not up to such a challenge - I have already pointed out that we seem to have a decent squad going into the new campaign. But even though the new format makes it easier to qualify for playoffs [6 from 14 is a shade better than 4 from 12] a club like ours really needs to be looking to top our conference and enjoy the home semifinal that comes with it.
Some other observations from our schedule...we hit all three Irish provinces in a row over the Christmas period, we play the champions Scarlets twice in three rounds in late Feb/early March, two of our final three regular season matches are at home to the Italia duo, and if we need anything from our final match we'll have to go to Galway to get it.
As for Ireland, well you probably know we've South Africa, Fiji and Argentina in November [all on Saturdays in the Aviva with 5:30pm kickoffs], there's a tour of Australia to be organised at the end of the season and in between, our Six Nations 2018 campaign begins in Paris, ends in Twickers on Paddy's Day and has three home matches on Saturdays at 2:15 in between.
But before we get too worked up about any of that, there's the small matter of the Women's World Cup for us to enjoy starting tonight. Best of luck to the girls, here's hoping the entire Irish rugby community gets behind them over the coming weeks - it promises to be a cracking tournament. JLP
PS - a link to the chart you see above will eventually appear in the sidebar and we'll update it throughout the season