Ballymena Rugby Club begins their latest quest to return to Irish club rugby’s ‘top table’ this weekend.
Andy Graham’s men begin their Ulster Bank All-Ireland League Division 1B campaign when they host Belfast Harlequins at Eaton Park on Saturday (2.30pm).
Normally at this stage of the season, Ballymena and other clubs would be honing their match sharpness in the Ulster League but the forthcoming Rugby World Cup has seen the flagship All-Ireland League start date brought forward.
“All sides will be stronger and it is just about making a good start,” said coach Graham.
“If we can get a good start then who knows where we can end up.
“It is a very tough opening game but we are looking forward to it.
“The players are reacting well to the challenges put in front of them,” added Graham.
Ballymena will embark on their AIL campaign in confident mood after beating Division 1A Ballynahinch in their opening Ulster League game. At the weekend, the Braidmen beat Queen’s 46-7 in a friendly.