Bristol to open 2018-19 Gallagher Premiership at home against Bath

Andrew Baldock 18:40 06/07/2018
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Bristol are back in the Gallagher Premiership

Bristol will mark their return to English Rugby union’s top flight by launching the new Gallagher Premiership season against west country rivals Bath.

The Ashton Gate clash on Friday, August 31 will be one of four games broadcast live by BT Sport across the competition’s opening three days.

Elsewhere that weekend, champions Saracens open against last season’s play-off qualifiers Newcastle at Kingston Park, while new Northampton Rugby director Chris Boyd’s Premiership baptism will be a Kingsholm meeting with Gloucester.

Exeter, beaten in the Twickenham final by Saracens six weeks ago, start against Leicester at Sandy Park, with Harlequins hosting Sale Sharks and Worcester entertaining Wasps.

Press Association Sport understands, meanwhile, that discussions continue over having a match in America during the forthcoming campaign, with Premiership Rugby expecting to make an announcement before the start of the season.

Past excursions to the United States saw Saracens play London Irish in New Jersey, while they faced Newcastle in Philadelphia last term.

Announcing the 2018-2019 fixtures at BT Tower in London, Premiership Rugby said that Saracens’ appointment with Harlequins at the Twickenham Stoop on October 6 will be screened live by NBC on network American television, rather than NBC Sports, for the first time.

And there is no traditional season-opening London double header this time around, as Twickenham Stadium is closed for redevelopment work in September.

Other season highlights include a possible reunion with his former Wasps team-mates for new Gloucester signing Danny Cipriani on October 6, while the first Exeter versus Saracens rematch is the weekend before Christmas and Bath’s return fixture against Bristol on April 6 will be their current annual game at Twickenham.

The Premiership final takes place at Twickenham on Saturday, June 1.

For Bristol, relegated last year but now back in the Premiership at a first possible opportunity, the Bath encounter represents a mouthwatering occasion.

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

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

“It’s great for us to be in Gallagher Premiership Rugby, and everybody is relishing the opportunity to test themselves in a fantastic competition.”

Saracens, who will be chasing a fourth title in five seasons, face an immediate test of those aspirations in the north-east against a Newcastle side revitalised by Rugby director Dean Richards.

Saracens Rugby director Mark McCall said: “We are all excited about the upcoming season, and the fixtures coming out certainly adds to the anticipation.

“Everyone understands the amount of work which needs to be put in over the coming months to ensure we are ready for the challenge ahead.”

Gallagher Premiership fixtures (first six rounds):

August 31 – Bristol v Bath, September 1 – Gloucester v Northampton, Harlequins v Sale Sharks, Worcester v Wasps, Exeter v Leicester; September 2 – Newcastle v Saracens.

September 7 – Northampton v Harlequins; September 8 – Wasps v Exeter, Leicester v Newcastle, Saracens v Bristol, Bath v Gloucester; September 9 – Sale Sharks v Worcester.

September 14 – Gloucester v Bristol; September 15 – Exeter v Sale Sharks, Harlequins v Bath, Northampton v Saracens, Worcester v Newcastle; September 16 – Wasps v Leicester.

September 21 – Newcastle v Exeter; September 22 – Bath v Northampton, Bristol v Harlequins, Leicester v Worcester, Sale Sharks v Wasps; September 23 – Saracens v Gloucester.

September 28 – Newcastle v Wasps; September 29 – Bristol v Northampton, Exeter v Worcester, Gloucester v Harlequins, Saracens v Bath; September 30 – Leicester v Sale Sharks.

October 5 – Bath v Exeter; October 6 – Northampton v Leicester, Sale Sharks v Newcastle, Wasps v Gloucester, Harlequins v Saracens; October 7 – Worcester v Bristol.

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