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Richards returns against Bath

Dean Richards will make his return as an Aviva Premiership director of rugby when Newcastle open the new season at home to Bath on Friday, September 6.

Richards took over Newcastle last summer, after serving a three-year ban for the fake blood scandal during his time at Harlequins, and he succeeded in guiding the Falcons back into the top flight at the first time of asking.

"Ideally we are not aiming just to finish 11th but it depends how the season unfolds," Richards said. "I have ambitions to get to the top."

Newcastle's opening fixture will be broadcast by the Premiership's new broadcast partner BT Sport, one of four matches being televised on the opening weekend.

The cameras will also be at Twickenham for the traditional season-opening double-header, which pitches London Irish against Saracens and Wasps against Harlequins on Saturday, September 7. The following day, Leicester will open the defence of their title against Worcester, now under the stewardship of Dean Ryan who is making his own Premiership coaching return, at Welford Road.

Richards takes little encouragement from the successes that Harlequins, who he guided to promotion, and Northampton have enjoyed recently following their returns to the Premiership.

Neither had to win promotion through the play-off system, which Richards is vehemently against. Newcastle have had just three weeks off.

"Not many teams have come up and been through what we and London Welsh have been through. I think next year they are looking at the Championship season finishing in June, which is more bizarre," Richards said.

"It does not give clubs much chance of preparing for the Premiership or capitalising on it at all. I thought London Welsh acquitted themselves well in the first few months last season but they found it difficult because they didn't have the strength in depth they'd have had if they been able to recruit properly. It came back to haunt them."

Live Friday night rugby will become one of the hallmarks of BT Sport's Premiership coverage. There will also be standardised kick-off times for televised matches of 7.30pm on a Friday, 3.15pm on a Saturday and 2pm on a Sunday.

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