Gallagher Premiership Rugby kicks off this weekend with six compelling matches to start the 22nd Premiership season. We can’t wait!
The opener could not be more intriguing with Todd Blackadder taking his Bath Rugby side on the short journey to Ashton Gate to face newly promoted Bristol Bears in front of a huge crowd and the live BT Sport cameras. BT Sport have decided to signify the start of the season by screening four matches live this weekend including a double header on Saturday from Kingsholm Stadium and Sandy Park before champions Saracens get their campaign underway at Kingston Park on Sunday.
Friday 31 August
Bristol Bears v Bath Rugby (Ashton Gate, 7.45pm) Live on BT Sport
Referee: JP Doyle (154th Premiership game).
Assistant Referees: Adam Leal & Wayne Falla. TMO: Rowan Kitt.
Citing Officer: Buster White.
The 22nd Premiership Rugby season begins with a new sponsor, Gallagher.
Bristol Bears were promoted after winning the RFU Championship last season and are bidding to become the third promoted team in the last four seasons to win their opening fixture in Premiership Rugby. The Bears lost only one league game last season, 34-38 at home to Jersey Reds in March.
Bath Rugby have begun their season with a victory in round 1 for the past eight years and finished off their last campaign with wins at Gloucester and at home to London Irish.
The only occasions that the two clubs have met since season 2008/09 were all in 2016/17 with Bath taking three victories (two in the European Challenge Cup) and Bristol winning 12-11 at Ashton Gate in Premiership Rugby. Bath have made five previous visits to Ashton Gate, winning twice.
Willi Heinz of Gloucester Rugby. Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images
Saturday 1 September
Gloucester Rugby v Northampton Saints (Kingsholm, 2pm) Live on BT Sport
Referee: Matthew Carley (75th Premiership game).
Assistant Referees: Jack Makepeace & Greg Macdonald. TMO: Trevor Fisher.
Citing Officer: John Byett.
Gloucester Rugby’s only two victories in round 1 since 2009 were at Newcastle in 2015 and at home to then defending champions Exeter twelve months ago. Gloucester concluded their last Premiership Rugby campaign with just one home win in their last four games at Kingsholm.
Northampton Saints have been defeated in round 1 for the past three seasons and finished off 2017/18 with two wins in the last three rounds of Premiership Rugby. The Saints won just twice away from home in the tournament last season, at London Irish in round 4 and at Leicester in round 20.
Northampton’s only defeat in their last eleven clashes with Gloucester in all competitions was 22-29 at Kingsholm in round 6 of Premiership Rugby last season.
Harlequins v Sale Sharks (Twickenham Stoop, 3pm)
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys (52nd Premiership game).
Assistant Referees: Simon McConnell & Roy Maybank. TMO: David Grashoff.
Citing Officer: Paul Burke.
Harlequins defeat to London Irish in the opening weekend at Twickenham Stadium twelve months ago ended a run of six successive round 1 victories for ‘Quins. Harlequins have won only one of their last ten games in Premiership Rugby, beating Bath 20-5 at The Stoop in March in a game that was delayed 48 hours due to bad weather.
Sale Sharks have lost on the opening weekend for the past four seasons and were also defeated in each of the last three rounds last season. The Sharks won three of their last seven away games in Premiership Rugby in 2017/18, at Worcester, London Irish and Northampton.
The last six encounters between the two clubs in Premiership Rugby have all been won by the home side on the day whilst Sharks only victory at The Stoop in the tournament since 2008 was in November 2014.
Worcester Warriors v Wasps (Sixways, 3pm)
Referee: Karl Dickson (7th Premiership game).
Assistant Referees: Peter Allan & Philip Watters. TMO: Stuart Terheege.
Citing Officer: Chris Catling.
Worcester Warriors have only recorded a round 1 victory in Premiership Rugby twice before, both at Sixways, against Sale in 2011 and Northampton in 2015. The Warriors last five games of the 2017/18 campaign were all won by the home side on the day whilst Worcester’s only home defeat in Premiership Rugby since early January was to Leicester on 4 March.
Between 2012 and 2015 Wasps began their new Premiership Rugby season with a defeat, a run which ended with round 1 victories at the Ricoh Arena against Exeter in 2016 and Sale in 2017. Wasps finished off last season with defeat in the semi-final at Saracens but rounded off the regular season with three straight victories.
The Warriors most recent victory over Wasps came at Sixways in Premiership Rugby in March 2013. Wasps have actually won at the venue on six of their last seven visits in the competition.
“Big” Don Armand of Exeter Chiefs. Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / JMP
Exeter Chiefs v Leicester Tigers (Sandy Park, 4.30pm) Live on BT Sport
Referee: Wayne Barnes (201st Premiership game).
Assistant Referees: Paul Dix & Anthony Woodthorpe. TMO: David Rose.
Citing Officer: Andrew Pearce with David Barnes.
Exeter Chiefs only victory in round 1 in the last five seasons was 52-0 at London Welsh in 2014, however this is the first time that The Chiefs have begun the season with a home fixture at Sandy Park since 2012. Exeter’s defeat in last season’s Premiership final ended a run of ten successive victories in first team fixtures. The Chiefs have lost only once at Sandy Park in Premiership Rugby since October 2016: 5-6 to Worcester in round 14 last season.
Leicester Tigers opening weekend defeat at home to Bath twelve months ago ended a run of five successive round 1 victories. Tigers lost only two of their last eight Premiership Rugby encounters last season, both at home, to Northampton and Newcastle. Leicester have won their last four away games but have not won five in succession on their travels in the tournament since 2012.
The Chiefs have won four of their last six contests with Tigers in Premiership Rugby, whilst Leicester’s most recent triumph at Sandy Park was in 2014.
Sunday 2 September
Newcastle Falcons v Saracens (Kingston Park, 3pm) Live on BT Sport
Referee: Ian Tempest (47th Premiership game).
Assistant Referees: Tim Wigglesworth & John Meredith. TMO: Sean Davey.
Citing Officer: Buster White.
Newcastle Falcons have begun their Premiership Rugby campaign with an opening weekend victory for the past two seasons. The Falcons lost out at Exeter in the semi-final last season and were also defeated by Wasps on their most recent game at Kingston Park to end a run of nine successive home victories in all competitions.
Premiership Rugby champions, Saracens, have won their opening fixture of the new campaign for the past six seasons and finished off last year with seven straight Premiership Rugby victories, since their 12-24 reversal to Exeter at Sandy park on 4 March.
Saracens have won their last nineteen encounters with Falcons in all tournaments since Newcastle’s 13-9 victory at Kingtson Park in Premiership Rugby in February 2009.
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