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There will be four rounds of Pro12 fixtures during this year's Rugby World Cup

Meanwhile, Connacht have confirmed contract extensions for four promising Irish players.

Will Munster go into a fractured Pro12 campaign as defending champions?
Will Munster go into a fractured Pro12 campaign as defending champions?
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

THE PRO12 TODAY unveiled its fixture framework for next season’s World Cup-effected competition.

The full fixture list will not be drawn until later this summer, but teams and supporters will at least roughly know the dates their province will be playing.

The league will kick-off on the weekend of 5 September, the day Ireland face England in their final warm-up game, and will play a second round of fixtures on the weekend of 12 September.

Pro12 rugby will then take a back seat for the best part of three weeks as the next fixture after the Rugby World Cup kicks off on 18 September will be round three on the weekend of 3 October (the weekend of Ireland’s Pool D clash with Italy).

A further break in play will take place the following week. So when the Pro12 resumes on 17 October, the World Cup pool stages will be over and it’s possible that international players will start filtering back in to their teams.

In all there will be six rounds of fixtures played before the Rugby World Cup final kicks off on 31 October, four rounds during the competition (click here to see the full list).

At the tail end of the season there is change too, but only to return to the more traditional run of fixtures after the inaugural Champions Cup season. As the European competition will return to its later date, the final stages of the Pro12 will no longer be played in back-to-back weekends. The final two rounds of regular season fixtures will be played on 30 April and 7 May with the semi-final and final set for 21 and 28 May respectively.

Meanwhile, a province which hopes to be involved right until the end again next season, Connacht have announced contract extensions for four more Irish players.

Pat Lam and Dave Heffernan Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Dave Heffernan will head off with the Emerging Ireland squad with a one-year extension signed and sealed with his native province.

Second row Danny Qualter and Munster natives JP Cooney and Shane O’Leary have also agreed to one-year deals with Pat Lam’s side.

“The retention of our young indigenous players such as Dave and Danny is very important for the future of Connacht Rugby,” says CEO Willie Ruane.

It is also very pleasing to see young JP and Shane enjoying their rugby and confident that they are in the right place to grow as players and also add to the culture we have built here.”

Head coach Lam added:  ”Recruitment is ongoing but it’s important to hold on to young players like these who have demonstrated that they have the talent and the desire to succeed in a professional set up.

“Dave, in particular, has had a season of huge growth and through his hard work, and the experience he’s gained in high-pressure games as a young and novice hooker.”

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Sean Farrell

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