Saracens start at home to Sale Sharks

Date published: July 3 2015

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Saracens will begin the defence of their Premiership title at home to Sale Sharks on Saturday, October 17, Premiership Rugby confirmed on Friday.

Five weeks ago Saracens lifted the title at Twickenham with a 28-16 victory over Bath and are looking forward to starting their campaign for back-to-back titles.

The opening weekend of the Premiership overlaps with the quarter-finals of the Rugby World Cup. 

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"Sale Sharks at home is a very difficult start. We know how strong a team they are after we faced the Sharks in both Aviva Premiership Rugby and the European Rugby Champions Cup last season. Those four games were tremendously competitive and very tight contests," said boss Mark McCall.

"Sale are well-coached side, and they won't have many players away on international duty. We know that the fixture list has provided us with a tough opening game.

"The opening fixtures are hard to forecast for us, as we currently have 21 players away on international duty in their respective training camps, with guys away with England, Scotland, Argentina, South Africa, Romania, USA and Namibia, the list goes on.

"It's a massive test for the depth of our squad as the season starts a week after the Rugby World Cup pool stages, so until then we don't know exactly who we'll have available but it provides the younger members of our squad with the opportunity to get some valuable Aviva Premiership experience."

Due to the Rugby World Cup the traditional season opener, the London Double Header, has been moved to Saturday, November 28 when Saracens host newly-promoted Worcester Warriors and London Irish are at home to Wasps in back-to-back fixtures at Twickenham Stadium.

"The London Double Header is a fixture our group really enjoy playing in," McCall added.

"It's a bit strange this season as it is usually the season opener, but this year it will be played once the season is all up and running. The last time we were at Twickenham was a fantastic experience so to go back there will be great opportunity for some of our younger players to test themselves on the big stage."

For the new season newly-promoted Worcester Warriors get off to a high-profile start entertaining the champions of 2013/14, Northampton Saints, on the opening day before back-to-back away games against Sale Sharks and Gloucester.

The Warriors' opener has also been selected for live TV coverage by BT Sport, who on the first weekend will also show Exeter Chiefs' mouth-watering trip to The Rec to take on last year's Premiership runners-up Bath.

Harlequins have announced a number of new signings including Jamie Roberts, Adam Jones, James Horwill and Tim Visser ahead of the season and open proceedings with a mouth-watering clash at home to one of their oldest rivals, Wasps, at the Twickenham Stoop.

Director of Rugby Conor O'Shea said: "We had an incredibly frustrating season last year and we are just focused on getting our best team on the pitch, fit and raring to go.

"We intend to right that wrong next season and get back up the table, and that starts in the first game as we want to win this thing.

"Anyone who says they didn't want to get off to as fast start would be lying, as it takes a huge amount of pressure off you.

"You just see that our first game is against Wasps which will be a big challenge but a really exciting one.

"Confidence will come by winning matches, so of course you want a fast start but Wasps will be very confident having finished sixth last year, and that rivalry between us will always be there because of the history – regardless of whether or not it is still a local derby.

"Then comes Leicester and Bath away from home straight after that. Three very hard games, but that's Aviva Premiership Rugby.

"We've just got to be excited by the challenge, and anyone who tries to write us off to win the title this season is very foolish."

Harlequins may not be involved in the London Double Header but will be back at Twickenham this season as Big Game 8 has been confirmed for Sunday, December 27 at HQ, where they will take on Gloucester.

O'Shea added: "We're always excited for the Big Game when it comes around, massively. Against Gloucester Rugby this year it will be great – David [Humphreys] had a great first year there and won a trophy at the end of it.

"Any occasion you are involved in playing in front of a full house at Twickenham is a special one and it's become a great tradition around Christmas.

"Then there is a pretty brutal period after Christmas and it's hard to know how that will work out. People will be playing every week with no rest, the whole squad will be vital, and it's going to be full on."

London Irish will play Gloucester in their annual St Patrick's Party at the Madjeski Stadium on March 19, where another bumper crowd is expected.

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