Premiership Rugby have confirmed that Harlequins and Sale Sharks will kick off the resumption of Gallagher Premiership Rugby on Friday August 14.
League organisers have confirmed the dates and fixtures for the first four rounds of the 2019-20 season upon its return next month, with all clubs able to host matches at their home venues rather than at neutral stadiums.
All attention will turn to the Twickenham Stoop for the start of Round 14, 159 days after the last Premiership match was staged.
Following the opener in west London there will be four matches on Saturday at Bath Rugby, Worcester Warriors, Bristol Bears and leaders Exeter Chiefs, before the weekend ends at Franklin’s Gardens where Northampton Saints face Wasps.
From there, Round 16 will take place in midweek on Tuesday August 25 and Wednesday August 26 in a first for the Premiership.
Darren Childs, chief executive at Premiership Rugby said: “With just over a month to go, we are delighted to be on track to bring rugby back to fans and see our players out in competition. The good news I can bring is that the Gallagher Premiership will be back a little earlier than we previously announced with the first game scheduled on 14 August. I must thank all of our players, clubs, partners, the RFU and RPA who have all supported us on this journey, and we are now cautiously optimistic for a safe return to the season.”
Premiership Rugby has also confirmed that the Premiership final will take place on Saturday 24 October.
But only four of the nine rounds remaining have been confirmed in Friday’s announcement.
Harlequins head of rugby Paul Gustard said of opening the restart against Sale: “We are delighted to be the first club back hosting a fixture as the Gallagher Premiership recommences. It has, of course, been an unprecedented time – the global impact of COVID-19 has been seismic.
“We are all excited to have the opportunity to represent the Club and look to push on in the second half of the season. It is brilliant that we get to run out at The Stoop once more. We are hugely thankful for the goodwill of our owners, the support of the board and the continued generosity of our amazing supporters.
“We also recognise and are grateful for all the hard work undergone by the game’s key stakeholders. They have played significant roles in getting us back out on the field from – the lengthy work of Premiership Rugby, the RFU, BT and Gallagher to namecheck just a few.”
Steve Diamond, Director of Rugby, Sale Sharks added: “It’s fantastic that we have the opportunity to return to play after such a long lay-off, I think everyone across the league is chomping at the bit to get going again. It’s been a turbulent period for everyone, but as a club we feel we have come out of the other end of this period stronger than ever.
“We have a top bunch of players here and all the lads have put their hands up and worked hard for the club during our return to play preparations, we are ready and raring to go so I think it will be a great occasion at The Stoop on Friday 14 August.”
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