Harlequins have been handed the honour of kicking off this season’s Premiership Rugby Cup in front of the live BT Sport cameras as the Bristol Bears arrive at the Twickenham Stoop on Friday 20 September.
The opening weekend of 15s competition comes less than a week after the season gets under way with the annual curtain-raising Premiership Rugby 7s tournament, also broadcast live and exclusively on BT Sport.
Four weeks before the start of Gallagher Premiership Rugby, the Premiership Rugby Cup sees England’s 12 top-flight clubs grouped into three pools of four, with the top team in each and the best runner-up across the pools qualifying for the semi-finals.
The final will once again be staged at the stadium of the highest-seeded side.
In a player-welfare driven initiative the structure of the Premiership Rugby Cup ensures that our players will receive a two-week winter break at the end of January / start of February, when the two semi-finals are staged on different weekends.
The teams in each group will play each other once over the first three weekends, before the compelling Derby Day weekend once again returns for the final round of action, starting on October 11.
On the Derby Day weekend, Gloucester will kick off the action on the Friday night against Bath at Kingsholm, while Exeter Chiefs face Bristol in the other West Country derby at Sandy Park on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Leicester Tigers renew their Midlands rivalry with Saints at Welford Road, Saracens take on Harlequins, Wasps go up against Worcester and the Exiles face Sale.
Northampton Saints will begin their Premiership Rugby Cup defence against Sale Sharks at the AJ Bell Stadium on September 21 after the fixtures for 2019-20 campaign were confirmed.
The inaugural running of the competition, which replaced the Anglo-Welsh Cup, saw Saints overcome Saracens 23-9 in the final at Franklin’s Gardens last season.
But the two finalists will not have to wait long to face each other again after being drawn together in Pool 1 alongside Sale Sharks and Wasps, with the latter taking on Saracens in the first round.
“We’ve already seen the benefit of getting young guys playing regularly in the Premiership Rugby Cup so we’ll use it as that sort of opportunity again,” said Saints coach Phil Dowson.
“We fundamentally want to win it and we’ll put pressure on those young guys to perform and make sure they put their hands up like the guys did last year to play Premiership Rugby.
“I was incredibly impressed with the way our guys came through and performed in the Cup last season, I thought it spoke volumes about the academy system we have at Saints.
“The strength of character of some of those young guys was impressive - every single one of them stepped up and played well and a lot of that led to them playing in the Premiership later that year.”
Full-back George Furbank was among the Saints players who impressed last season – and the 22-year-old full-back expects the competition to be another eye-opening experience.
“It was great to get a trophy under our belt with the Premiership Rugby Cup, so we know how to win a trophy and hopefully we can carry that on into this campaign and go all the way,” he said.
“The Premiership Rugby Cup is going to be massively important. Obviously, it’s going to be different to last year but again it gives opportunities for young lads.
“It also gives a chance to new players coming in, and guys who played in it last season, to put their hand up early on in the season and showcase what we’ve been working on in pre-season.”
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