Danny Cipriani and Dan Biggar among stars to watch on Premiership's opening weekend

Sport360 staff 17:50 31/08/2018
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The Premiership returns for the 2018/19 season this weekend, with last year’s beaten finalists Exeter – usurped as champions by Saracens – hosting Leicester Tigers at Sandy Park on Saturday.

There are four games in total on Saturday, including Gloucester against Northampton, with new signings Danny Cipriani and Matt Banahan expected to make their Premiership bows for Gloucester.

The champions are in action on Sunday away at Newcastle, while Bristol and Bath get us under way on Friday.

Ahead of the opening weekend, we look at all the fixtures.

EXETER V LEICESTER

Exeter and England's Sam Simmonds.

Exeter and England’s Sam Simmonds.

New signing Alex Cuthbert, England wing Jack Nowell and lock Mitch Lees are missing for Exeter after undergoing summer surgery, but the Chiefs still parade a powerful line-up for their Premiership opener that includes the likes of Olly Woodburn, Gareth Steenson, Don Armand and Sam Simmonds.

Former Worcester forwards Will Spencer and David Denton will make their Leicester debuts at Sandy Park, with three more new arrivals – Kyle Eastmond, David Feao and Gaston Cortes – among the replacements.

Manu Tuilagi and Matt Toomua team up in midfield, with George Ford and Ben Youngs the half-back pairing.

Last season: Exeter 30 Leicester 6, Leicester 20 Exeter 13

Last six league matches: Exeter WWWWWW, Leicester WWWLLW

GLOUCESTER V NORTHAMPTON

Danny Cipriani has endured an up and down summer.

Danny Cipriani has endured an up and down summer.

England internationals Danny Cipriani and Matt Banahan will make their Premiership bows for Gloucester. Cipriani is joined at half-back by Callum Braley, while Banahan forges the back-three unit alongside Jason Woodward and Charlie Sharples. Lock Ed Slater captains the side.

England captain Dylan Hartley has been named on the bench for Northampton after making a successful comeback against pre-season friendly opponents Glasgow last week following five months out due to concussion.

New rugby director Chris Boyd hands Saints Premiership debuts to fly-half Dan Biggar, prop Ben Franks and flanker James Haskell.

Last season: Northampton 22 Gloucester 19, Gloucester 29 Northampton 24

Last six league matches: Gloucester LWLWLL, Northampton LLLWLW

HARLEQUINS V SALE

Chris Robshaw leads Harlequins once again.

Chris Robshaw leads Harlequins once again.

England flanker Chris Robshaw captains a Quins side that includes three debutants in wing Nathan Earle, centre Ben Tapuai and lock Matt Symons. Full-back Mike Brown makes his 299th appearance for the club, and exciting prospect Marcus Smith starts at fly-half.

Wing Marland Yarde will line up for Sale against his former club, with number eight Jono Ross skippering the side. Elsewhere, the Curry brothers Tom and Ben both start, and there is a Sale debut for ex-Bath forward James Phillips alongside Bryn Evans in the second-row.

Last season: Sale 30 Harlequins 29, Harlequins 42 Sale 26

Last six league matches: Harlequins WLLLLL, Sale WWWLLL

WORCESTER V WASPS

Elliot Daly will be a key player for Wasps this season.

Elliot Daly will be a key player for Wasps this season.

Three of Worcester’s new signings will line up in the starting XV against Wasps, with centre Francois Venter, fly-half Duncan Weir and prop Callum Black – who has returned for a second spell with the Warriors – all featuring. Fit-again hooker Niall Arnett, meanwhile, makes a first league appearance since late 2016.

Billy Searle, a summer arrival from Bristol, fills the fly-half berth for Wasps at Sixways, while flanker Joe Atkinson also makes his competitive debut for the club. Searle forms a half-back partnership with Dan Robson, while England international Elliot Daly and South African Juan De Jongh team up in midfield.

Last season: Wasps 30 Worcester 15, Worcester 10 Wasps 24

Last six league matches: Worcester LLWLWL, Wasps WLLWWW

Sunday, September 2

NEWCASTLE V SARACENS

Owen Farrell will be a pivotal player for the champions again.

Owen Farrell will be a pivotal player for the champions again.

Newcastle boss Dean Richards hands a first Premiership start to wing Adam Radwan for Saracens’ Kingston Park visit. The 20-year-old scored tries in all of the Falcons’ pre-season friendlies.

New signing Logovi’i Mulipola starts in the front-row, where his colleagues include George McGuigan, who has returned for a second spell with Newcastle.

Wing David Strettle will make his Premiership return for Saracens after rejoining the club from French heavyweights Clermont Auvergne. Strettle, whose last competitive Saracens game was in 2015, lines up in a side that also sees starts for scrum-half Ben Spencer and lock Will Skelton.

Billy Vunipola, who is recovering from injury, is not included.

Last season: Saracens 25 Newcastle 3, Newcastle 7 Saracens 29

Last six league matches: Newcastle WWLWWL, Saracens LWWWWW

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