The rugby season starts here...
Today's the day that rugby players throughout England - having dusted off their scrumcaps, offered a lick of polish to their boots and possibly even washed and ironed their shirts - will lock horns for another season of bone-crunching meetings. Many have aspirations of greater glory, most are looking forward to sharing a beer with their opponents a few hours hence...
In many ways it is almost a shame that the first day of the rugby season has to arrive. At 3 o'clock this afternoon supporters and players around the country will be woken from their summer dreaming by the shrill whistle of some corpulent referee.
For many it will only take a few minutes before the intoxicating positivity that has fermented since May, goes very flat indeed. The blank canvas will become stained by dawning realisation that only one team can win the league.
For others the hope that this could finally be the season, the year that justifies the previous 20, will take a more solid and beautiful form as the ensuing months become a type of oval ball nirvana.
In the meantime there will be a lot of blood spilt, limbs broken and hopes shattered and that's the interesting part. The chase is almost better than the outcome ? whatever it is.
Particularly when the inevitable tales of strategic mismanagement and administrative incompetence filter out from the sport's centre. How we rugby lovers adore knocking the union.
Allow me to set the ball bobbling. This season is the 19th since competitive leagues were introduced in the sport and it is quite remarkable that a suitable structure has still yet to be happened upon. You'd have thought the law of averages would have offered a solution by now.
The game's brains trust needs to decide what National One is for. In its current nebulous form it is ill-equipped to fulfil its mandate of producing clubs good enough to compete in the Premiership.
Worcester were very much the exception when they survived in the top flight after finally escaping level two but not many outfits have a man of Cecil Duckworth's sporting vision nor, let it be said, the wherewithal, with which to follow it through.
Most of National One is made up of teams who could never and would never even dream of trying to get into the Premiership.
Clubs like Otley, Nottingham and Sedgley Park are already at the zenith of their ambition and those that pay lip service to such lofty aspirations, have a business plan that extends to a faint hope that another Duckworth appears on their doorstep.
Pertemps Bees, it should be said, are not included in that group. Behind the scenes they have some truly committed individuals trying to unlock the latent potential that exists in their two sites and wealthy home town. More of which later.
And then there's the other clubs who are throwing money at it left, right, centre, up, down, inside, outside and any other direction not hitherto mentioned.
Plymouth Albion, Bedford Blues, Exeter Chiefs and, most notably, Penzance & Newlyn could be guest speakers at a How to Waste Money conference. They could all teach Montgomery Brewster a thing or two.
The final group is Harlequins. There are those who think the swanky Londoners will be better off for a cold shower and some swingeing rationalisation.
There are others, myself included, who believe their presence renders the entire National One season a futile exercise - except that is for the succulent irony that they are now forced to play clubs who in years gone they would have deemed unfit to step on.
In principal no one can deny the propriety of their relegation but the bloated central funding they receive from the Rugby Football Union makes the operation a waste of time.
They begin Operation Bounce Back at Sharmans Cross Road, home of Pertemps Bees in a wonderfully incongruous meeting of two separate worlds.
Bees have spent the summer shipping out a shoal of red herrings and replacing them with players they hope will not sink without trace against the big fish.
They'll find out straight away. This season they don't have the luxury of a gentle opener followed by a couple of dolly away trips.
Quins and Plymouth come to their jolly little play-pen in the first two matches and that gives them the chance of making immediate amends for last term's failure, but also presents the inherent risk of slipping behind the pace from the very off.
Could Phil Maynard find it in himself to survive another difficult campaign with little sign of the financial cavalry arriving? It seems the rumoured take-over, exclusively broken by The Birmingham Post earlier in the summer, will not materialise.
"They appear to have been relatives of Lord Lucan," is Lawrence Grove's black-humoured assessment of that particular situation.
Bees are not without optimism though, every club is entitled to a spot of that at this stage of the season, and while their budget remains at the lower end of the National One scale, it would be foolhardy to under-estimate Maynard's ability to fashion a silk purse from a slightly less valuable substance.
Optimism is something Moseley have by the bushel. A new ground, a new star player - or two, and the odd spent penny, in the non-toiletry sense of the expression.
One can not help but wince when Moseley spend money though. Several of their players enjoyed standout seasons last year and duly attracted interest from other clubs. Moseley had to pay to retain their services.
They also forked out to bring Daren O'Leary and Neil Mason from Worcester and the world of full-time rugby, to provide the catalyst for what they hope will be a promotion campaign.
John Beale's men start the National Two season as many people's favourites for the title having finished last year playing some delectable rugby. The way they cut Launceston to ribbons towards the end of the campaign was wonderful to watch.
Ollie Thomas was their inspiration that day and remains at the club despite overtures from elsewhere. Much will be expected of him this year so he will need to acclimatise himself to the kicking conditions at Billesley Common.
The rest of his team mates have already settled into their new surroundings. The vibrant feeling around their new clubhouse is tangible, with faces not seen for many years emerging from the woodwork and turning up at pre-season matches. For the moment at least, Moseley's new season is shinier than most.
Stourbridge are also in Moseley's division and they will be charged with improving on last season's mid-table finish.
They have lost their play-maker Ben Harvey to Bees and have missed out on another former B&S player Mark Woodrow who decided he preferred a stint in Italy to one in the Black Country.
The whole recruitment process has driven director of rugby, Neil Mitchell, to distraction this summer and he has opted to keep faith with the bulk of last season's squad while persuading No 1 target, Tom Jordan, to make the reverse trip from Solihull.
What he now has to do is find out a way to win at home. Stour's record on their own pitch was truly dreadful last year as they limped to just three wins on their own pitch. That has to be improved.
At Mitchell's former club, Coventry, the ever-present wiff of farce has once again raised its head. The internecine squabbling between the club's chairman, Keith Fairbrother, and the rest of the world has been something of a soap opera this off season.
Joint directors of rugby Ian Carvell and Graham Robbins spent three months building a squad they deemed to be capable of improving on last year's strong National One showing - only to resign when their bid to buy the club was continually rebuffed by Fairbrother.
Head coach Mike Umaga stays in control of team affairs and although he will deny the off-field shenanigans have unsettled his players, he would have to admit they have harmed Coventry's already tarnished public image.
Despite the uncertain backdrop Cov feel they are ready to challenge at the top of National One and given Umaga's huge potential as a coach, and his innovative approach to traditional problems, they could well do so; but one has to wonder if they got the power up front to impose themselves away from home?
That is not something Worcester lack. The Warriors enjoyed a thrilling first season in the top flight, confounding the doom-mongers from the start, before sealing their short-term future in a thrilling last day finale at home to Northampton.
Most of their success was based on a punishing pack, created in the image of their DOR John Brain, and although they have replaced head coach Andy Keast with Australian Anthony Eddy - who brings a rather pioneering attitude to squad development - there will be more of the same this year.
With Chris Horsman certain to make his international debut - most likely in the scarlet of Wales and not the white of his own country - Craig Gillies dominating the air and the tireless Pat Sanderson harrying and hurrying for all he's worth Sixways will once again be a difficult place to visit.
Bristol's elevation should ensure the rest of the league has the whipping boy it craves, meaning Worcester will be able to look forward instead of over their collective shoulder.
That could mean a decent cup run, either in the domestic competition or the European Challenge Cup, but with the loss of the Heineken Cup wildcard places it is difficult to see Warriors breaking into the top four to qualify for the big one.
On the national front the Red Rose will either wither and die this season or enjoy a second bloom. Andy Robinson's stewardship has reached a crossroads.
Results were so disappointing in the last Six Nations, when only Scotland and Italy were beaten, that Clive Woodward's former right hand man may not survive another disappointing campaign.
With France to visit it is difficult seeing them competing for a Grand Slam and that means Twickenham must be restored to the fortress it once was. With his quirky selection and tactical mush it remains to be seen whether Robinson is the man to oversee that process.