Saracens start title defence at Newcastle – Premiership fixtures announced

Reigning champions Saracens will begin the defence of their Premiership title with their longest trip of the season to Newcastle Falcons on 2 September.

Sarries, who have won three of the past four titles, will meet previous champions Exeter on the weekend of 21-23 December.

Newly-promoted Bristol kick off the campaign with a local derby at home to Bath on Friday, 31 August.

Exeter start the season at home to Leicester, while Wasps go to Worcester.

“To open the season against Bath – and to come up against Todd [Blackadder], a man I know and respect a huge amount – is really exciting and a major boost for our supporters,” said Bristol head coach Pat Lam.

“We have no doubt they will fill Ashton Gate and create an incredible atmosphere.”

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Opening Premiership fixtures

  • Bristol v Bath (19:45 BST, Friday, 31 August)
  • Gloucester v Northampton (14:00 BST, Saturday, 1 September)
  • Harlequins v Sale Sharks (15:00 BST, Saturday, 1 September)
  • Worcester v Wasps (15:00 BST, Saturday, 1 September)
  • Exeter v Leicester (16:30 BST, Saturday, 1 September)
  • Newcastle v Saracens (15:00 BST, Sunday, 2 September)

Ones to watch

Brad Shields<!–

Every new season brings with it new faces. Here are five of the Premiership’s biggest summer signings:

  • Brad Shields – He has won two England caps but never played in English rugby. All that will change when the English-qualified former Hurricanes skipper makes his debut for Wasps.
  • Alex Cuthbert – The British and Irish Lions winger has effectively ended his hopes of going to the 2019 World Cup by signing for Premiership runners-up Exeter on a three-year deal.
  • Dan Biggar – Another Lions and Wales player, but the fly-half has won the requisite 60 caps so can still play for the national team, provided he does the business for new club Northampton.
  • Charles Piutau – Bristol signed the former All Black back in August 2017 in preparation for their return to the top flight – now it is time to see what the former Ulster man can show on the field.
  • Danny Cipriani – Not a new face for the Premiership, but he is certainly having a renaissance. Having got a first England start in almost a decade in South Africa earlier this summer, he will hope to propel new club Gloucester into the top four.

Can Bristol break the Championship hoodoo?

Rhodri Williams scores a try for Bristol<!–

The statistics would suggest Bristol have a tough task if they are to stay in the Premiership.

Since the Championship was formed in the 2009-10 season, the promoted side from the previous campaign has stayed up just 50% of the time – and only one of the past four promoted teams has stayed up.

But the second tier scrapped their play-off system last season, meaning Bristol knew they were going up on 9 April, rather than the end of May or early June as in previous years, so could that extra preparation time help their chances?

Promoted Championship sides in the Premiership
2017-18: London Irish – Relegated. Three wins and 19 losses
2016-17: Bristol – Relegated. Three wins and 19 losses
2015-16: Worcester – Stayed up. Seven wins and 15 losses (finished 10th out of 12)
2014-15: London Welsh – Relegated. Lost all 22 league games
2013-14: Newcastle – Stayed up. Three wins and 19 losses (finished 11th out of 12)
2012-13: London Welsh – Relegated. Five wins and 17 losses
2011-12: Worcester – Stayed up. Seven wins, one draw and 14 losses (finished 10th out of 12)
2010-11: Exeter – Stayed up. 10 wins and 12 losses (finished 8th out of 12)

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