Planet Rugby

Saints open season on Friday night

04th July 2014 11:00

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Northampton celebrate with Aviva Premiership trophy

Holders: Northampton Saints

Aviva Premiership champions, Northampton Saints, will kick off the new season and the defence of their title at Franklin's Gardens against Gloucester.

Saints, who defeated Saracens after extra time in the Final last May, will have the honour of playing in the first match of the new Aviva Premiership season on Friday September 5.

"It will be exciting to start the 2014/15 season under the lights on a Friday night and at home at Franklin's Gardens," said Northampton director of rugby Jim Mallinder.

"The last time we played at home was the Aviva Premiership semi-final, and if we can start next season in the same type of atmosphere as we finished 2013/14 then it will be tremendous. Gloucester have made a lot of changes behind the scenes this summer, and it will be an exciting test.

"We know that as champions we are there to be aimed at and that every team we play will raise their game against us. The three away games at Wasps, Newcastle Falcons and London Irish will be difficult, while Sale and Bath will no doubt be looking to take a step up from last season's improvements.

"I'm fully expecting the Aviva Premiership to be more competitive than ever this season. But as always we will be taking it one game at a time and looking to get a positive result every week."

Northampton have also confirmed they will take Tom Wood and Co on the road, playing Saracens at home at stadiummk on April 25.

On the opening weekend more than 65,000 fans will descend on Twickenham for the annual London Double Header.

The London Double Header kicks off at 2pm on Saturday September 6 when last season's Aviva Premiership Rugby runners-up Saracens entertain Wasps, followed hot on their heels by London Irish hosting Harlequins.

Saracens will also make a return to Wembley on Saturday March 28 when another huge crowd will be expected to watch rugby at the home of English football. Saracens will compete against Harlequins at Wembley who will again host a Christmas match at Twickenham this time against Northampton Saints on 27 December.

"The London Double Header is a fantastic way of starting the new season," said Saracens boss Mark McCall.

"It's a great occasion and a real showpiece event, one that everyone looks forward to. There are some great games in the opening rounds of what should be another exciting season of Aviva Premiership."

London Welsh, who were promoted from the RFU Championship in May, are at the Kassam Stadium in their first weekend entertaining Exeter Chiefs on Sunday September 7, before going on the road to Bath.

"We're delighted to be at home for the club's first game back in Aviva Premiership," said London Welsh head coach Justin Burnell.

"Sunday at the Kassam Stadium will be a great opportunity to show the people of Oxford what the Premiership is all about and hopefully we can get a good crowd in and get the stadium bouncing.

"The reason why we were successful last season was down to our work ethic and our environment.

"We don't claim to be world beaters but what we will produce is a tremendous attitude. If we get beaten on the day by a better team with better players then that's life, but it certainly won't be for a lack of trying.

"This week has been our first week back in training and I've already been very impressed with the attitude of the new players, and by how quickly they've settled in and adapted to the London Welsh ethos.

"With our drive and focus, hopefully we can go on to maintain our Aviva Premiership status."

The opening weekend of Aviva Premiership Rugby (all times BST):

Friday September 5:

Northampton Saints v Gloucester Rugby (19:45)

Saturday September 6:

Saracens v Wasps (Twickenham, 14:00)
Sale Sharks v Bath (14:00)
Leicester Tigers v Newcastle Falcons (15:00)
London Irish v Harlequins (Twickenham, 16:30)

Sunday September 7 :

London Welsh v Exeter Chiefs (14:00)

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PosTeamPPts
1Northampton625
2Saracens622
3Exeter620
4Bath620
5Wasps615