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Saints at Sixways for Worcester

Worcester will make a high-profile return to the Aviva Premiership in October by featuring on a busy opening night against Sixways visitors Northampton.

The Warriors, back in English rugby's top flight following a dramatic Championship play-off victory over Bristol five weeks ago, will greet Saints on Friday, October 16.

Also kicking off the 2015-16 Premiership campaign that night are Harlequins and Wasps, who meet at the Twickenham Stoop, while Newcastle host Gloucester.

Reigning Premiership champions Saracens start the following day against Allianz Park visitors Sale Sharks, while the opening round is completed by a west country derby between Bath and Exeter at the Recreation Ground, and Leicester making the trip to London Irish.

Due to the England-hosted Rugby World Cup taking place in September and October, the domestic season starts more than a month later than usual.

The traditional opening weekend Twickenham double-header has been moved to November 28 - Saracens will face Worcester and London Irish tackle Wasps - with other fixtures announced by Premiership Rugby on Friday including an October meeting at Milton Keynes' Stadium mk between Northampton and Newcastle, and Saracens hosting Harlequins at Wembley next April.

Elsewhere, Coventry-based Wasps' first meeting next term with their new midlands neighbours Leicester will be at Welford Road on World Cup final weekend (October 31-November 1), and Quins' 'Big Game 8' sees them meet Twickenham visitors Gloucester on December 27.

Next season's title play-offs, meanwhile, are scheduled for Friday, May 20 and Saturday, May 21, with the final at Twickenham on May 28.

Assessing the fixtures, Saracens rugby director Mark McCall said: "Sale Sharks at home is a very difficult start.

"We know how strong a team they are after we faced the Sharks in both the Premiership and the European Champions Cup last season.

"The opening fixtures are hard to forecast for us as we currently have 21 players away on international duty in their respective training camps.

"Guys are away with England, Scotland, Argentina, South Africa, Romania, USA and Namibia. The list goes on.

"It's a massive test for the depth of our squad, as the season starts a week after the Rugby World Cup pool stages, so until then we don't know exactly who we will have available.

"But it provides the younger members of our squad with the opportunity to get some valuable Premiership experience."

And Quins rugby director Conor O'Shea added: "We had an incredibly frustrating season last year, and we are just focused on getting our best team on the pitch, fit and raring to go.

"We intend to right that wrong next season and get back up the table, and that starts in the first game as we want to win this thing.

"Anyone who says they didn't want to get off to a fast start would be lying, as it takes a huge amount of pressure off you.

"You just see that our first game is against Wasps, which will be a big challenge, but a really exciting one."


From Belfast Telegraph