Premiership fixtures 2018-19: Champions Saracens start season at Newcastle

Saracens celebrate winning the 2018 Premiership title
Saracens have been Premiership champions in 2011, 2015, 2016 and 2018

Reigning champions Saracens will begin the defence of their Premiership title with their longest trip of the season to Newcastle Falcons on 2 September.

Sarries, who have won three of the past four titles, will meet previous champions Exeter on the weekend of 21-23 December.

Newly-promoted Bristol kick off the campaign with a local derby at home to Bath on Friday, 31 August.

Exeter start the season at home to Leicester, while Wasps go to Worcester.

"To open the season against Bath - and to come up against Todd [Blackadder], a man I know and respect a huge amount - is really exciting and a major boost for our supporters," said Bristol head coach Pat Lam.

"We have no doubt they will fill Ashton Gate and create an incredible atmosphere."

Opening Premiership fixtures

  • Bristol v Bath (19:45 BST, Friday, 31 August)
  • Gloucester v Northampton (14:00 BST, Saturday, 1 September)
  • Harlequins v Sale Sharks (15:00 BST, Saturday, 1 September)
  • Worcester v Wasps (15:00 BST, Saturday, 1 September)
  • Exeter v Leicester (16:30 BST, Saturday, 1 September)
  • Newcastle v Saracens (15:00 BST, Sunday, 2 September)

Ones to watch

Brad Shields
Brad Shields was a controversial selection by Eddie Jones for this summer's England tour to South Africa

Every new season brings with it new faces. Here are five of the Premiership's biggest summer signings:

  • Brad Shields - He has won two England caps but never played in English rugby. All that will change when the English-qualified former Hurricanes skipper makes his debut for Wasps.
  • Alex Cuthbert - The British and Irish Lions winger has effectively ended his hopes of going to the 2019 World Cup by signing for Premiership runners-up Exeter on a three-year deal.
  • Dan Biggar - Another Lions and Wales player, but the fly-half has won the requisite 60 caps so can still play for the national team, provided he does the business for new club Northampton.
  • Charles Piutau - Bristol signed the former All Black back in August 2017 in preparation for their return to the top flight - now it is time to see what the former Ulster man can show on the field.
  • Danny Cipriani - Not a new face for the Premiership, but he is certainly having a renaissance. Having got a first England start in almost a decade in South Africa earlier this summer, he will hope to propel new club Gloucester into the top four.

Can Bristol break the Championship hoodoo?

Rhodri Williams scores a try for Bristol
Bristol won 21 of their 22 games in the Championship last season, scoring 949 points and getting four tries or more in 18 matches

The statistics would suggest Bristol have a tough task if they are to stay in the Premiership.

Since the Championship was formed in the 2009-10 season, the promoted side from the previous campaign has stayed up just 50% of the time - and only one of the past four promoted teams has stayed up.

But the second tier scrapped their play-off system last season, meaning Bristol knew they were going up on 9 April, rather than the end of May or early June as in previous years, so could that extra preparation time help their chances?

Promoted Championship sides in the Premiership
2017-18: London Irish - Relegated. Three wins and 19 losses
2016-17: Bristol - Relegated. Three wins and 19 losses
2015-16: Worcester - Stayed up. Seven wins and 15 losses (finished 10th out of 12)
2014-15: London Welsh - Relegated. Lost all 22 league games
2013-14: Newcastle - Stayed up. Three wins and 19 losses (finished 11th out of 12)
2012-13: London Welsh - Relegated. Five wins and 17 losses
2011-12: Worcester - Stayed up. Seven wins, one draw and 14 losses (finished 10th out of 12)
2010-11: Exeter - Stayed up. 10 wins and 12 losses (finished 8th out of 12)

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