The end of the rugby season is fast approaching and a sure sign of this is the start of the Manx Cup.

The format has changed slightly this season and is a four-way competition between Douglas, Ramsey, Southern Nomads and Vagabonds.

They play each other once in a round-robin league format and when that’s concluded the top two meet in the final which will be at Port-e-Chee on April 22.

This weekend’s opening games see defending champions Ramsey host Douglas with Vagabonds taking on Southern Nomads at Ballafletcher.

Douglas, with their lofty position in the English league system, must start favourites however their league campaign hasn’t been brilliant and despite the gap in playing levels the other sides will all be hoping for that one off burst of cup rugby which could see them cause an upset.

Douglas finished 10th in Regional Two North West but have had 22 hard games under their belt with a squad which didn’t really change that much.

Their ability to function as a team will be enhanced by this and they’ll be incredibly difficult to beat as a result.

Skipper Rob Todd has led his men well this season and with coach Phil Cringle will form a formidable front row.

Luke Hyland can kick his goals and Bryn Snellgrove knows every trick there is.

Outside the forwards the pace of Harry Hewson and Kyle Martin can cause problems from everywhere on the pitch.

Ramsey have their stars too though.

Josh Corteen and Eddie Lord are smart operators up front with Brandon Atchison providing the speed out wide. They will, however, be missing Dan Richmond (finger) and Conor Goodall (holiday) and half-back may be an area for Douglas to exploit. This should result in a Douglas win.

At Ballafletcher the game could be a little closer.

There’s a spring in the Vagabonds step though.

Two wins in their last three games saw them off the bottom of the league standings.

Mark Oldfield and Dan Bonwick are providing some direction and the front five have been rock solid giving scrum dominance which is always an advantage.

Both sides have played Port Sunlight away, Vagas in the league and Nomads in the Cheshire Bowl.

Vagas won their game and Nomads just lost out which suggests Vagas are the favourites for this tie.

They have 17 league games behind them which means they should be harder and faster than Nomads who have only around half a dozen quality games to their name.

Nomads do of course have their own stars. Orry Watterson will keep the forwards ticking over and the Callister/Young half back combo is very experienced.

Add in pace from Will Taisia and Tony Quinn in the backline and you have a tough team. On paper though, Vagas should take the win.