Champions Leinster will begin the new Guinness PRO14 season by tackling Cardiff Blues in the Welsh capital on August 31.

The Arms Park encounter pitches together Leinster as European Champions Cup holders and last season's European Challenge Cup winners the Blues.

Organisers have announced fixtures for the first 17 rounds of league action, which see two seven-team conferences unchanged from last term.

Leinster line up in Conference B, along with the likes of last season's Champions Cup semi-finalists the Scarlets, with the Welsh region's opener being a September 1 appointment with Ulster in Belfast.

South African sides Toyota Cheetahs and the Southern Kings, meanwhile, launch their second PRO14 campaigns against Munster and Zebre, respectively.

The first weekend's fixtures are completed by Ospreys entertaining Edinburgh, Connacht hosting Glasgow and Italian side Benetton meeting the Dragons in Newport.

The opening game in South Africa is on September 15 when the Cheetahs meet Glasgow, while Leinster and Scarlets are set for an early rematch following last season's PRO14 final when they clash in west Wales on September 8.

Games will be screened live by a number of broadcasters, including Premier Sports and Free Sports, Welsh channel S4C and Super Sport in South Africa.

The top three teams in each conference will progress to play-offs next May, with the two conference winners having byes into the semi-finals, when they also get home advantage.

The final will take place on May 25, with Glasgow's Celtic Park being speculated upon as a possible venue.

PRO14 tournament director David Jordan said: "For the first-time ever we have produced fixtures with kick-off times and dates right up to round 17, which we have never been able to do before.

"When you consider the planning required around incoming and outbound South African tours, it's fantastic to have so much of the season mapped out ahead of us at this point.

"Rarely has there been so much anticipation and excitement ahead of a new season now that we show every game live across the UK on Premier Sports, fully supported by eir sport and TG4 in Ireland, Super Sport in South Africa and S4C in Wales.

"Our new broadcast arrangements will drive up the broadcast standards and supporters should rightly get excited by what is to come.

"We are confident that we have respected the wide-ranging criteria required to produce the fixture list, whether that is accommodating traditional Friday or Saturday match-days for various clubs, or working around clubs who share venues with football teams."