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Welsh boss wants more than survival

London Welsh boss Justin Burnell wants his players to be thinking about more than just survival in the Aviva Premiership this season when they open up at home to Exeter on Sunday, September 7.

The match at the Kassam Stadium is the final fixture on the opening weekend and one of four games in round one to be broadcast live on BT Sport.

The other three see defending champions Northampton host Gloucester on Friday, September 5 before the traditional Twickenham double-header pitches Saracens against Wasps and London Irish against Harlequins on Saturday, September 6.

Elsewhere on Saturday, Sale host Bath and Leicester launch their title challenge at home to Newcastle.

Welsh secured an immediate return to the top flight when they beat Bristol in the Championship play-off final in May but head coach Burnell is setting his sights higher than staying up.

"We want to compete. This word 'survive' - everyone will focus around that word but we want to compete," Burnell said.

"Going into that second leg of the final against Bristol, instead of worrying about just getting the aggregate win our mindset was to win the game.

"We thought that would give us the perfect preparation for the Premiership - we came out with that mindset and that's something we have to take into this season."

Welsh have wasted no time in bolstering their ranks ahead of the new campaign. The club have brought in 20 new players already and Burnell revealed there are a few more still to come.

"We've made 20 signings to date and we've got another five or six signings to come in which will hopefully stand us in good stead," he said.

"Those five or six are more than Premiership standard. It's exciting times for us and we'll give it our best shot."

Defending champions Northampton face a tough opening clash against Gloucester, who have rung the changes over the summer under new director of rugby David Humphreys in a bid to improve on last season's ninth-place finish.

Saints boss Jim Mallinder said: "It will be exciting to start the 2014-15 season under the lights on a Friday night and at home at Franklin's Gardens.

"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."

Saints secured their first Aviva Premiership title by beating bitter rivals Saracens in a dramatic play-off final in May.

The two teams meet again in the league at Allianz Park on November 22 before Saints take Sarries to Milton Keynes in the reverse fixture on April 25.

Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall said: "The London double-header is a fantastic way of starting the new season.

"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."

Sarries will also make a return to Wembley on March 28 when another bumper crowd will be expected to watch them play Harlequins, who lost to McCall's men in last season's semi-finals.

Harlequins will again host a Christmas match at Twickenham, this time against Northampton on December 27.

The Premiership fixtures for rounds one to six are confirmed. From round seven onwards they are subject to television selections.

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