BRISTOL Bears have been handed the honour of kicking off the new Gallagher Premiership Rugby season, hosting Championship winners Saracens at Ashton Gate, as stadiums across England return to 100 per cent capacity.
Round 1 action of the new Premiership season will commence from September 17, when Saracens travel to the beaten semi-finalists after their return to the top flight.
The match will be one of three games to be broadcast live on BT Sport, with Leicester Tigers versus Exeter Chiefs and Newcastle’s clash against reigning champions Harlequins also set to be shown over the weekend.
For Bristol director of rugby Pat Lam, the chance to be the first out of the gate is one he is relishing at a full Ashton Gate.
“It’s great that Bristol Bears will host the competition curtain-raiser and better still that we will have fans back at the stadium again. Having the opportunity to welcome Saracens back into the Gallagher Premiership will be a fantastic spectacle for our fans and BT Sport’s audience too.
“A capacity crowd at Ashton Gate, under the lights on a Friday night, always creates one of the best atmospheres in the country so we’re excited about getting underway.”
Saracens, promoted back to the Premiership at the first time of asking, will begin their bid to have Champions Cup rugby back at the StoneX Stadium after coming through their play-off against Ealing Trailfinders 117-15 over two legs.
“As a club, we are obviously looking forward to the new season and what lies ahead,” said director of rugby Mark McCall. “Playing at Ashton Gate first up will be a great challenge but one our group will relish.”
The 2021-22 season will comprise of 26 rounds plus semi-finals and final (on 18 June).
Notable 2021-22 fixtures
Round 1 (September 17-19): Bristol Bears v Saracens, Leicester Tigers v Exeter Chiefs, Northampton Saints v Gloucester, Sale Sharks v Bath, Worcester Warriors v London Irish, Newcastle Falcons
Round 26 (June 4): Exeter Chiefs v Harlequins, Gloucester v Saracens, Leicester Tigers v Wasps, Northampton Saints v Newcastle Falcons, Sale Sharks v Bristol Bears, Worcester Warriors v Bath