The British & Irish Cup returns this weekend for the eighth time as teams from England, Ireland and Wales battle it out to lift the trophy won by London Welsh at Headingley Carnegie last season.

Welsh will kick-off the new season campaign at 2012 winners Munster 'A' on Saturday afternoon at Midleton RFC.   

Meanwhile Championship newcomers London Irish play Ospreys Premiership Select who, alongside Cardiff Blues, Scarlets and Dragons, make up the Welsh Regional Premiership teams participating in the cross-border competition.

Richmond, who were promoted to the Championship from National League 1 last season, will get no rest bite this weekend after their tough start to life in the Greene King IPA Championship. Richmond are yet to record a point this season from their opening six games and now welcome Leinster 'A' to the Athletic Ground on Saturday before a tough trip to the Scarlets Region the following week.

The Dublin club have won the British & Irish Cup twice since its inception in 2009, claiming the title over Newcastle Falcons in 20013 and Yorkshire Carnegie in 2014.

In one of only two all-English ties in the opening round, Doncaster Knights will host local rivals Rotherham Titans. Fixtures between the two South Yorkshire teams always prove to be a tight affair, with results between them being decided by an average of five points over the past two league seasons.

The British and Irish Cup first took place for the first time in the 2009–10 season and the eighth competition takes place in the 2016–17 season.

A total of twenty-four teams from England (twelve), Ireland (three), Scotland (three) and Wales (six) competed in the inaugural competition. This remained the case for the first three seasons, though the format has varied slightly in each season.

For the 2012–13 season, the competition was expanded to thirty-two teams; England (twelve), Ireland (four), Scotland (four), and Wales (twelve) and for the first time, pool stage games were played on a "home and away" basis.

For the 2013–14 season the number of teams competing was reduced to twenty-four, with the Welsh entrants reduced from twelve to four, and the following season the competition was reduced to twenty teams with the withdrawal of the Scottish clubs.

As of the 2015-16 season, Welsh teams were represented by regional Premiership Select sides from the four Welsh regions and the format will remain the same for this season. 

There have been four English winners of the competition so far and Irish sides have won the title in the remaining three Finals. This year's tournament kicks off on Friday night in South Belfast as Ulster A take on Jersey Reds in the opening game of the 2016-17 British & Irish Cup.