Premiership fixtures 2016-17: Bristol face Harlequins in Twickenham opener

Saracens Premiership Trophy lift
Saracens beat Exeter Chiefs in last season's Premiership final at Twickenham

Promoted Bristol's first game back in the Premiership will be against Harlequins in the London Double Header at Twickenham on Saturday, 3 September.

Defending champions Saracens face Worcester in the other Twickenham game, while on Sunday Wasps host Exeter in a rematch of last season's semi-final.

Gloucester v Leicester and Newcastle v Sale kicks off the 2016-17 season on Friday, 2 September.

Bath, currently without a head coach, travel to Northampton on Saturday.

Bristol, who return to English rugby's top flight following a seven-year absence, play their first home game against 2014 champions Saints on Sunday, 11 September.

A number of teams will again take 'home' matches away from their normal grounds, with Saracens facing Harlequins at Wembley Stadium on 8 April and Bath playing long-standing rivals Leicester at Twickenham on the same day.

Twickenham Stadium also plays host to Quins against Gloucester during the Christmas period - bringing back memories of the 39-39 draw at the ground last season.

The Anglo-Welsh Cup is set to return for the 2016-17 season, kicking off on the weekend of 4-6 November, with fixtures to be announced later this month.

Three the magic number for Saracens?

Maro Itoje
Maro Itoje (left) started 26 games for Saracens and England in 2015-16 - and won all 26

Sarries will go into the season hoping to become the first team to win three successive Premiership titles since Wasps did it between 2003 and 2005.

Mark McCall's side also won the European Champions Cup last term - the first English club since Wasps 12 years ago to win the top-flight and European titles in the same season.

This campaign, they face Quins in the first London derby on 24 September, before a match on 9 October against Wasps at Allianz Park in one of this season's standout fixtures.

Saracens meet Dai Young's side in the return game on the final day.

Do Exeter face the toughest start?

Geoff Parling
Exeter Chiefs lock Geoff Parling walks past the Premiership trophy after their final defeat by Saracens

The side with arguably the hardest start of the season is last year's losing finalists Exeter.

The Chiefs travel to Wasps - who they overcame in the Premiership semi-finals, but who beat them in a dramatic Champions Cup quarter-final - before hosting champions Saracens.

Harlequins visit Sandy Park six days later before a trip to nearest rivals Bristol, who Exeter beat to become a Premiership team in 2010 in the first Championship play-off final.

"Exeter against Wasps - every single fixture was an incredible fixture last year, so if you're going to start the season with a fixture why not play Wasps again? We'll want to prove a point, Wasps will want to prove a point," Exeter head coach Rob Baxter told BBC Sport.

"I think the atmosphere at Bristol will be fantastic, I'm really looking forward to that game."

West Country derbies

Bristol lift Championship trophy
Bristol beat Doncaster in the Championship play-off final to return to the top flight for the first time since 2009

The return of Bristol to the Premiership means this campaign will be packed full of West Country derbies, with the newly-promoted side travelling to The Rec on 18 November to face Bath, before the return fixture on 24 February.

Andy Robinson's side will also be looking forward to facing near rivals Gloucester on 3 December, before bringing them back to Ashton Gate on 26 March.

The Cherry and Whites will be hoping to avenge defeat by Bath at Kingsholm last time out on 1 October.

Meanwhile, last season's losing finalists Exeter will face home matches against Gloucester and Bath in October after travelling to closest geographical rivals Bristol on 23 September.

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