The launch of the Guinness PRO12 2015/2016 season took place on Monday at the DIAGEO Headquarters in Park Royal, London, with all 12 club coaches and playing captains in attendance.
Launching the new season, Gerald Davies, Chairman, PRO12 Rugby, said: "Every game counts in the Guinness PRO12! With the introduction of meritocracy for European Champions Cup qualification, we had more competitive games at all stages of the tournament last year.
"We also had a sixth year of year-on-year growth on attendance, with record crowds of almost 1.2 million (up 4.65%) and a new league attendance record set of 52,762 at Judgement Day III, who saw a record 5,480 points scored – including 587 tries (4.35 on average per match) so we had lots of entertainment and excitement all season long!
"Our partnership with Guinness has been an unqualified success both on and off the park and their long association with rugby union has been apparent in everything they do. The continued support of our other partners Specsavers and Rhino Rugby is also recognised as a key component in our growth as a competition."
Davies continued: "We would like to thank our very strong suite of broadcasters, our newest broadcast partner Sky Sports together with BBC Alba, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, S4C, TG4 and Rai Sport. TV audiences again were very strong with over 92% of games on live television last year. The Final in Belfast was viewed on average by an excellent live audience of 310,000. This season, we will have 62 out of 72 live games up to round 12 and we will have a greater reach in Italy as Rai Sport have re-joined our strong broadcast team
"The highest number of international players – 254 international players from 14 countries – played in the Guinness PRO12 last season and we wish all of them selected this year the very best in the forthcoming Rugby World Cup 2015 in England. We hope that our four countries have had an excellent and ongoing summer preparation, and wish them all a long, fruitful and successful participation in RWC 2015!"
Oliver Loomes, Category Director Beer Europe, Diageo, added: "The Guinness PRO12 continues to grow year-on-year and establish itself as one of the biggest and best domestic rugby leagues in the world. We had a fantastic first season as title sponsor of this great competition during 2014/15 and we look forward to working with PRO12 Rugby, the clubs and the other partners over the coming 2015/16 season."
The Guinness PRO12 2015/16 season will kick off next week on Friday 4th September with Edinburgh Rugby v Leinster, Connacht v Dragons and Ulster v Ospreys.
Last year's Guinness PRO12 Champions Glasgow Warriors will host Scarlets on Saturday 5th September and later that day Munster will host Benetton Treviso in Cork.
The early Sunday afternoon fixture sees Cardiff Blues take on Zebre Rugby at BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park.