Promoted Saracens handed testing trip to Bristol in Gallagher Premiership opener

·3-min read

Saracens mark their return to the Gallagher Premiership with a tricky trip to Bristol as the top flight introduces bye weeks to accommodate its expansion by an additional team.

Mark McCall’s side travel to Ashton Gate on September 17 to face the Bears, who reached the semi-finals last season only to come up against an inspired Harlequins.

Saracens were relegated at the end of 2019-20 for repeated salary cap breaches but secured an immediate return to a new-look 13-club Premiership by winning the Greene King IPA Championship.

Saracens will be title contenders despite their season spent in the Championship
Saracens will be title contenders despite their season spent in the Championship (Ashley Western/PA)

“As a club, we are obviously looking forward to the new season and what lies ahead. Playing at Ashton Gate first up will be a great challenge but one our group will relish,” director of rugby Mark McCall said.

The match is set to see England players Max Malins and Ben Earl face a Bristol outfit where they spent last season on loan while Saracens campaigned in the second tier.

“A capacity crowd at Ashton Gate, under the lights on a Friday night, always creates one of the best atmospheres in the country so we’re excited about getting underway,” Bristol boss Pat Lam said.

Champions Harlequins launch the defence of their title at Newcastle on September 19 when they will come up against Mike Brown, the former England full-back who swapped the Stoop for Kingston Park this summer.

Harlequins are the reigning Premiership champions
Harlequins are the reigning Premiership champions (Nigel French/PA)

Quins seized the Premiership crown with a thrilling style of rugby that swept them all the way to a 40-38 victory over Exeter in the Twickenham final last month.

“It’s great to have sight of how our first season as defending champions will kick-off. Newcastle away is a tough match and we’re looking forward to testing ourselves early with a trip north,” Harlequins director of rugby performance Billy Millard said.

Wasps are without a fixture on the opening weekend following the league’s expansion to 13 teams for the first time in its history, thereby increasing the number of rounds to 26.

Each club will have two bye weeks during the season, which climaxes at Twickenham on June 18. Existing maximum game play limits and guaranteed rest periods for players are maintained despite the expansion.

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At the end of the new season, the Premiership will expand to 14 clubs with no relegation until 2023-24.

Premiership Round One –

Friday September 17:
Bristol Bears v Saracens – 7.45pm (live on BT Sport)

Saturday September 18:
Leicester Tigers v Exeter Chiefs – 3pm (live on BT Sport)
Northampton Saints v Gloucester Rugby – 3pm
Sale Sharks v Bath Rugby – 3pm
Worcester Warriors v London Irish – 3pm

Sunday September 19:
Newcastle Falcons v Harlequins – 3pm (live on BT Sport)

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