Premiership: BBC Sport previews the 2015-16 season

Aviva Premiership launch
Saracens beat Bath to win the Premiership trophy at Twickenham in May
Aviva Premiership
Starts: Friday, 16 October Final: Saturday, 28 May 2016 (Twickenham)
Coverage: BBC local radio commentary and live text commentary on every match of the opening weekend of the season.

Just six days after England's World Cup campaign ended early with a 60-3 demolition of Uruguay, the domestic game is already back on the agenda.

The 2015-16 Premiership season kicks off on Friday, with newly promoted Worcester Warriors and 2014 champions Northampton Saints among those in action.

But, while the Rugby Football Union's World Cup review continues, what shape does English rugby union's top flight find itself in? How will England's returning players fare? And which teams should we look out for during the next eight months or so?

The impact of England's World Cup disaster

Across the land's rugby clubs, pubs, bars and front rooms, more than 11 million people watched England's dramatic defeat by Wales on television. Nearly the same number tuned in for the decisive loss to Australia a week later.

Many millions of people, a large percentage of whom would have been uninitiated in rugby union, in search of a new sport to enjoy and fresh heroes to follow.

But how many will come back? How many will find themselves tucking into the domestic game?

BBC Sport's Ben Dirs suggests legacy is a slippery word - and Leicester Tigers director of rugby Richard Cockerill tends to agree.

Stuart Lancaster and Ian Ritchie
England became the first World Cup host nation to exit at the pool stage

"What's a legacy?" he asks. "The game's growing all the time and the Premiership's a great competition. I don't think it's going to damage the game.

"Will it have grown a bit bigger if we'd got to a semi-final or a final and left as heroes instead of having those disappointing performances? Of course.

"But I think the Premiership's very strong and the club game in England has never been stronger.

"Of course it's disappointing that England have dropped out, but it's not an exact science. It's sport, you lose sometimes."

'Getting back on the horse'

Chris Robshaw
Harlequins flanker Chris Robshaw came in for criticism following England's World Cup failure

Skipper Chris Robshaw has borne the brunt of England's World Cup exit, saying after the defeat by Australia that the national team "let the whole nation down".

The 29-year-old has been afforded some time off by Harlequins director of rugby Conor O'Shea, but the Irishman expects the flanker to recover from personal and professional disappointment when he returns to action.

"Mentally and physically Chris has had to front up a lot more than all the others," said O'Shea. "Scrutiny is part and parcel of being in sport. The great sportspeople overcome that.

"What Chris has gone through doesn't define him. He needs to be proud of what he stands for, what he has done and what he will achieve.

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Danny Cipriani focuses on Sharks form

"He is the second most-capped England captain of all time and he will continue to be a great player and leader.

"Chris will have his dressing room and his friends. He will hit the ground running when he comes back in."

The rest of Harlequins' England contingent - Mike Brown, Danny Care, Nick Easter and Joe Marler - are all set to return to domestic duties immediately.

"I know how much they feel they have let their country down," added O'Shea. "From my experience, when Ireland lost to Argentina in the 1999 World Cup, all I wanted to do was get back on the horse and play for my club.

"Moping around isn't the thing to do."

Meet the reigning champions

Saracens finished top of the Premiership in 2013 and 2014, but their journey to their second title last season came via a more roundabout route, as they sneaked into the play-offs on points difference.

As director of rugby Mark McCall contemplates how to mastermind a seventh consecutive top-four finish and another assault on Europe, the club's policy of rotation will be crucial.

"It is going to be a unique season because of the delayed start," said the Ulsterman.

Saracens win the Premiership

"We will have 25 consecutive matches as a minimum in the Premiership and the Champions Cup.

"It is going to be relentless. We have got to be able to cope with whatever setbacks come our way and be able to take advantage of whatever momentum we can get during the season.

"None of our players will play 25 straight games. We need to sensibly spread the load and look after those people who have had a bit of game time already.

"We have got a European Cup game in four games' time and need to make sure we are well prepared for that as well. It will be a real squad effort this season."

Can Mike Ford's Bath go one better?

Mike Ford and Sam Burgess
Bath head coach Mike Ford said he would turn down the England job in favour of staying at The Rec

Anyone who watched Bath last season will tell you they are on the verge of doing something very special at The Rec. The inclusion of six players in England's World Cup squad tells its own story.

Pipped in the Premiership final by Saracens, they will be desperate to go one better this term and have serious ambitions in Europe. The word "legacy" also appears to be particularly pertinent for head coach Mike Ford - the 49-year-old is desperate for some silverware.

"We're unbelievably hungry," he told BBC Sport. "You mope around for a couple of weeks after the final but, when you get back together, you have that look in your eye. The leaders and players have that look in their eye.

"We were proud of what we achieved and it was an improvement on the year before, but ultimately we came up short. We tasted it and we don't want to feel like that again this year.

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Ford expects tough Premiership

"We are going to give the Premiership the respect it deserves, every club has improved and we have to get better every day. If we get better every day, hopefully we can do better."

So can Bath, to use Ford's words, do better?

As well as a more experienced Sam Burgess - who will return to the club and play at flanker - they have also added fly-half Rhys Priestland and scrum-half Niko Matawalu, as well as Tom Homer, Jonathan Evans and Jeff Williams.

The early return of their England contingent should also benefit Ford's side, while Kyle Eastmond, Semesa Rokoduguni and Dave Attwood will all have points to prove to Stuart Lancaster after being overlooked by England.

Establishing yourself at the top table

Worcester Warriors

Worcester Warriors have competed in English domestic rugby union's top flight in nine of the last 11 seasons, having first reached the Premiership in 2004.

Only twice have they been relegated - under Grand Slam-winning former Wales coach Mike Ruddock in 2010, and then again under Dean Ryan in 2014 - and each time they have bounced straight back.

Now they are up in the big time again, following in the embarrassed footsteps of London Welsh, who lost all 22 of their matches in 2014-15 and picked up just a single bonus point on their way to relegation back to the Championship.

But, with a younger, hungrier squad of players to call on, Warriors director of rugby Ryan is insistent they will be a lot more competitive - and that there is nobody left at Sixways looking for an easy ride.

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Falcons 'must climb to succeed'

"We feel we're in a much stronger place to do that now," said Ryan. "The one difference we've got from 18 months ago is that the profile is much younger and more ambitious.

"The core senior players are better role models. There's nobody here using the club for a year's window for financial gain.

"Every single player we've brought here knows exactly what we're trying to do.

"As a club we're so excited. We know there's a huge gap. But the only way we are going to find a way of being competitive is to keep our heads up, enjoy it and be prepared to learn from whatever happens at the weekend. We really feel we're in a different place."

Compiled by Brendon Mitchell, Rob Stevens, Nabil Hassan and Ged Scott.

For the latest rugby union news follow @bbcrugbyunion on Twitter.

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