Saracens, Ealing Trailfinders and Doncaster Knights will all return to rugby action this month in the Trailfinders Challenge Cup, a pre-season tournament to build towards the start of the Championship season.
The Triangular series will kick off next Saturday, January 16, when Ealing Trailfinders will face Saracens at Vallis Way.
A round-robin format will see the competition run for six weeks where the top-ranked side will be crowned winner.
It will give Saracens’ England contingent chance to resume match fitness in the lead up to when Eddie Jones assembles his squad to launch a defence of England’s Six Nations title.
As reported in TRP, the England head coach has been in contact with Saracens staff to ascertain their plans for England stars who have remained loyal despite the club’s relegation from the Premiership.
Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall said: “We’re delighted to be playing in the Trailfinders Challenge Cup ahead of the new season and thankful to those who have made it possible.
“The challenge of playing Doncaster Knights and Ealing Trailfinders in competitive fixtures is one we’re looking forward to and will be ideal preparation for our squad for the season ahead.”
While Saracens will be taking to the pitch for the first time since their 17-17 draw with Bath to conclude the 2019-20 season on October 4, Ealing have only played two friendlies against Newcastle Falcons since March and Doncaster Knights have been without any playing time.
Ealing Trailfinders director of rugby Ben Ward said: “We are delighted to be playing in the Trailfinders Challenge Cup. To have competitive rugby and a trophy up for grabs will give us a real focus over the coming weeks.
“Saracens and Doncaster have both been in training for a while and we are all desperate to play rugby and get games under our belt before the league season starts. The games will be exciting to watch and we want to show the quality that is on show in the Championship.
“Thanks to Mike Gooley and Trailfinders for offering to cover all associated costs to make this event possible. As sponsors of the Trailfinders Challenge Cup, their generosity has given us a new opportunity and we can’t wait to get out there and play on the 16th January.”
Doncaster Knights director of rugby, Steve Boden, added: “We are really excited to be playing rugby again and especially looking forward to the chance to test ourselves against such high-quality opposition.
“After just seven weeks of training, this competition will be a huge challenge for us, but one that will provide plenty of learning opportunities for our young group and showcase the quality and talent within the Greene King IPA Championship.”