Preview: Premiership, Round One
Preview: Premiership, Round OneSHARE
The excitement is building ahead of the opening round of the Premiership season – which gets underway with the now traditional Twickenham double header on Saturday.
Defending champions Harlequins have the privilege of kick-starting the season when they face London Wasps in the opener at Twickenham. The second encounter of the double header will see 2010/11 champions Saracens up against London Irish.
Other Saturday matches have Exeter Chiefs against Sale Sharks, Gloucester facing Northampton Saints and Worcester Warriors up against Bath.
The opening weekend is concluded when multiple champions Leicester Tigers travel to newcomers London Welsh.
Harlequins' Chris Robshaw spoke about the excitement of playing on the hallowed turf of Twickenham.
"When you walk onto Twickenham you get that buzz," Robshaw said, adding: "It is an exciting place to be."
He said the defending champions won't be resting on their laurels.
"We feel we have a lot to improve on our game and we want to keep working at that."
Sarries' Steve Borthwick said he can't wait for the new Premiership season to start.
"Pre-season has gone really well and you get to that point where everyone is just looking forward to getting stuck into the season," he said.
"You want to play those big games. So everyone is excited about what is ahead. It's been nice for me to have a first full pre-season in a decade and get involved in the great coaching we have at Saracens.
"It's been all about constantly looking for the edges, every area of the team, every area of the coaching group constantly looking to try and improve things in their area.
"I think that is what we've really worked hard to do this pre-season and it has gone well. It was a frustrating year last year but there were positives being only two points off the top, having young players come through and being the only English club to reach the Heineken Cup quarter-finals.
"But ultimately we want to improve, we need to improve, and I think we have because everyone else will be in this highly competitive league that we are in."
We look at all the Round One action!
Saturday, September 1
London Wasps v Harlequins
The new Premiership campaign begins with the ninth season of the London double header at Twickenham.
London Wasps have a won four, drawn one, lost three record in previous London double headers and are unbeaten in the last three, whilst defending Champions, Harlequins, have a very even won three, drawn one, lost three record in previous London double headers.
Wasps concluded their last campaign with four straight Premiership defeats.
Harlequins lost just one of their final eight matches in the competition: 33-43 against Leicester at the Twickenham Stoop on 21 April.
Quins have won their last five meetings with Wasps in all competitions, and have lost on just one of their last five visits to Twickenham.
London Wasps: 15 Hugo Southwell (captain), 14 Christian Wade, 13 Elliot Daly, 12 Andrea Masi, 11 Tom Varndell, 10 Nick Robinson, 9 Joe Simpson, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Jonathan Poff, 6 James Haskell, 5 Joe Launchbury, 4 Marco Wentzel, 3 Fabio Staibano, 2 Tom Lindsay, 1 Tim Payne.
Replacements: 16 T Rhys Thomas, 17 Simon McIntyre, 18 Zak Taulafo, 19 Tom Palmer, 20 Ashley Johnson, 21 Nic Berry, 22 Tommy Bell, 23 Chris Mayor.
Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Tom Williams, 13 Matt Hopper, 12 Jordan Turner-Hall, 11 George Lowe, 10 Nick Evans, 9 Danny Care, 8 Nick Easter, 7 Chris Robshaw (captain), 6 Maurie Fa'asavalu, 5 George Robson, 4 Olly Kohn, 3 James Johnston, 2 Joe Gray, 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 Rob Buchanan, 17 Mark Lambert, 18 Will Collier, 19 Charlie Matthews, 20 Tom Guest, 21 Karl Dickson, 22 Ben Botica, 23 Ross Chisholm.
Referee: Greg Garner
Assistant Referees: Paul Dix and Peter Huckle
TMO: Graham Hughes
Exeter Chiefs v Sale Sharks
(Sandy Park, 15.00)
Exeter Chiefs will be all out to preserve their opening day form, having won both previous round one clashes they have contested in Premiership. The Chiefs lost three of their last four games in all competitions last season.
Sale Sharks' opening day reversal at Worcester last season ended a three game winning run in previous round one encounters. The Sharks ended a five game losing run on the road in the Premiership with their 24-19 victory at Gloucester on 21 April.
Exeter have won all four previous encounters between the two clubs. Gloucester v Northampton Saints
Exeter Chiefs: 15 Phil Dollman, 14 Josh Tatupu, 13 Ian Whitten, 12 Jason Shoemark, 11 Matt Jess, 10 Ignacio Mieres, 9 Will Chudley, 8 Richard Baxter, 7 James Scaysbrook, 6 Tom Johnson, 5 Aly Muldowney, 4 Tom Hayes (captain), 3 Craig Mitchell, 2 Chris Whitehead, 1 Brett Sturgess.
Replacements: 16 Simon Alcott, 17 Ben Moon, 18 Chris Budgen, 19 James Hanks, 20 James Phillips, 21 Kevin Barrett, 22 Gareth Steenson, 23 Luke Arscott.
Sale Sharks: 15 Rob Miller, 14 Will Addison,13 Johnny Leota, 12 Sam Tuitupou,11 Corne Uys, 10 Nick Macleod, 9 Dwayne Peel, 8 Andy Powell, 7 David Seymour (captain), 6 James Gaskell, 5 Fraser McKenzie, 4 Richie Gray, 3 Vadim Cobilas, 2 Joe Ward, 1 Eifion Lewis-Roberts.
Replacements 16 Marc Jones, 17 Ross Harrison, 18 Tony Buckley, 19 Kearnan Myall, 20 Richie Vernon, 21 Cillian Willis, 22 Danny Cipriani, 23 Jordan Davies.
Referee: Dave Pearson
Assistant Referees: Paul Burton and Ian Tempest.
Gloucester v Northampton Saints
Gloucester have lost in round one of Premiership in three of the past four seasons, including the game at Northampton last year. Gloucester finished off last season with an unwanted run of six straight defeats.
Northampton Saints begin the season away from home for the first time since 2005, and have won their last five opening weekend fixtures. The Saints won four of their last five regular season games in Premiership last campaign.
Gloucester have won three of their last four clashes with Northampton, whilst the Saints have been victorious at Kingsholm just once since 2005: 27-14 on 19 September 2009.
Gloucester: 15 Jonny May, 14 Charlie Sharples, 13 Mike Tindall, 12 Billy Twelvetrees, 11 James Simpson-Daniel, 10 Freddie Burns, 9 Dan Robson, 8 Ben Morgan 7 Akapusi Qera, 6 Matt Cox, 5 Alex Brown (captain), 4 Tom Savage, 3 Rupert Harden, 2 Darren Dawidiuk, 1 Nick Wood.
Replacements: 16 Dan Murphy, 17 Huia Edmonds, 18 Shaun Knight, 19 Will James, 20 Sione Kalamafoni, 21 Dave Lewis, 22 Henry Trinder, 23 Martyn Thomas.
Northampton Saints: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Ken Pisi, 13 George Pisi, 12 Dom Waldouck, 11 Vasily Artemyev, 10 Ryan Lamb, 9 Lee Dickson, 8 GJ Van Velze, 7 Tom Wood, 6 Phil Dowson, 5 Christian Day, 4 Samu Manoa, 3 Brian Mujati, 2 Dylan Hartley (captain), 1 Soane Tonga'uiha.
Replacements: 16 Mike Haywood, 17 Alex Waller, 18 Paul Doran Jones, 19 Mark Sorenson, 20 Rhys Oakley, 21 Martin Roberts, 22 Stephen Myler, 23 Luther Burrell.
Referee: Andrew Small
Assistant Referees: Andrew Pearce and Greg Macdonald.
Worcester Warriors v Bath
Worcester Warriors' only previous win on the opening weekend in the Premiership was when they beat Sale 17-12 at Sixways last season. The Warriors finished off the 2011/12 Premiership campaign with four straight defeats.
Bath have played away from home in round one every year since 1998, except for 2007, despite this they have won their opening game in four of the past five years. Bath won just one of their last six games in all competitions last season: 17-12 at home to London Wasps on 21 April.
Worcester have beaten Bath just once in their last ten meetings in all competitions since 2007: 16-7 at Sixways in Premiership on 25 November 2011.
Worcester Warriors: 15 Chris Pennell, 14 Josh Drauniniu, 13 Alex Grove, 12 Josh Matavesi, 11 David Lemi, 10 Andy Goode, 9 Shaun Perry, 8 Semisi Taulava, 7 Sam Betty, 6 Chris Jones, 5 Dean Schofield (captain), 4 James Percival, 3 John Andress, 2 Aleki Lutui, 1 Matt Mullan.
Replacements: 16 Ollie Hayes, 17 Ceri Jones, 18 James Currie, 19 Craig Gillies, 20 Matt Kvesic, 21 Jonny Arr, 22 Joe Carlisle, 23 Ben Howard.
Bath: 15 Nick Abendanon, 14 Tom Biggs, 13 Dan Hipkiss, 12 Matt Banahan, 11 Kyle Eastmond, 10 Olly Barkley, 9 Michael Claassens, 8 Ben Skirving, 7 Francois Louw, 6 Carl Fearns, 5 Dominic Day, 4 Stuart Hooper (captain), 3 David Wilson, 2 Lee Mears, 1 Paul James.
Replacements: 16 Ross Batty, 17 Nathan Catt, 18 Kane Palma-Newport, 19 Dave Attwood, 20 Will Skuse, 21 Mark McMillan, 22 Ollie Devoto, 23 Jack Cuthbert.
Referee: Luke Pearce
Assistant Referees: Stuart Terheege and Kevin Stewart.
Saracens v London Irish
Saracens have a won 3, lost 5 record in previous London double headers, and have won just one of the last four such encounters. Sarries were victorious in their last three regular season fixtures in Premiership last season.
London Irish's record in previous London double header clashes is won 5, lost 3. The Exiles won their last two games of last season at Worcester and at home to Gloucester. Irish have won only one of their last six visits to Twickenham: 33-16 over Saracens in this equivalent fixture in 2010.
Saracens have won their last three encounters with London Irish.
Saracens:15 Alex Goode, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Joel Tomkins, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 Chris Wyles, 10 Charlie Hodgson, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Ernst Joubert, 7 Will Fraser, 6 Kelly Brown, 5 Mouritz Botha, 4 Steve Borthwick (captain), 3 Petrus du Plessis, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Rhys Gill, 18 Carlos Nieto, 19 Eoin Sheriff, 20 Jackson Wray, 21 Neil de Kock, 22 Nils Mordt, 23 James Short.
London Irish: 15 Tom Homer, 14 Topsy Ojo, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Sailosi Tagicakibau, 11 Marland Yarde 10 Steve Shingler, 9 Tomás O'Leary, 8 Jon Fisher 7 Ofisa Treviranus, 6 Jamie Gibson, 5 Bryn Evans (captain), 4 George Skivington, 3 Leo Halavatau, 2 Scott Lawson, 1 Max Lahiff.
Replacements: 16 Brian Blaney, 17 Halani Aulika, 18 Cai Griffiths, 19 Kieran Low, 20 Declan Danaher, 21 Alex Gray, 22 Shane Geraghty, 23 Jack Moates.
Referee: Wayne Barnes
Assistant Referees: Sean Davey and Robin Goodliffe
TMO: Trevor Fisher.
Sunday, September 2
London Welsh v Leicester Tigers
(Kassam Stadium, 14.00)
London Welsh are participating in England's top division for the first time and become the 20th different side to play Premiership rugby.
The Exiles concluded last season's RFU Championship campaign with four wins in their last five games. Oxford's Kassam Stadium becomes the 31st new venue to host a Premiership encounter.
Leicester Tigers have lost their opening fixture in Premiership for the past three seasons. The Tigers won their last eight games of the regular season in the Premiership last year.
This is Leicester's first visit to Kassam Stadium, whilst the club have not played in the city of Oxford since a visit to Iffley Road to take on the Dark Blues in 1994.
The two clubs have met just once before in competitive rugby, a 43-3 win for the Tigers at Old Deer Park in the 3rd round of the Pilkington Cup in January 1990, whilst the last time they met in a friendly was in December 1995 at Welford Road (Leicester winning 62-19).
London Welsh: 15 Tom Arscott, 14 Phil MacKenzie, 13 Sonny Parker, 12. Hudson Tonga'uiha, 11 Joe Ajuwa, 10 Gordon Ross, 9 Jonah Holmes, 8 Daniel Browne, 7 Lee Beach, 6 Ed Williamson, 5 Kirill Kulemin, 4 Jonathan Mills (captain), 3 Paulica Ion, 2 Neil Briggs, 1 Franck Montanella.
Replacements: 16 Greg Bateman, 17 Tom Bristow, 18 Arthur Joly, 19 Martin Purdy, 20 Alfie To'oala, 21 Nick Runciman, 22 Seb Jewell, 23 Nick Scott.
Leicester Tigers: 15 Geordan Murphy (captain), 14 Scott Hamilton, 13 Manusamoa Tuilagi, 12 Anthony Allen, 11 Vereniki Goneva, 10 Toby Flood, 9 Micky Young, 8 Thomas Waldrom, 7 Julian Salvi, 6 Steve Mafi, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Rob Andrew, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Logovi’i Mulipola.
Replacements: 16 George Chuter, 17 Boris Stankovich, 18 Martin Castrogiovanni, 19 Brett Deacon, 20 Jordan Crane, 21 Sam Harrison, 22 George Ford, 23 Matt Smith.
Referee: JP Doyle
Assistant Referees: Nigel Carrick and Andrew Watson
TMO: Geoff Warren