Gallagher Premiership Fixtures 19/20
By Mark Stevens
Exeter Chiefs Director of Rugby Rob Baxter is predicting another 'highly competitive' season ahead after the Gallagher Premiership fixtures for the 2019/20 season were confirmed this morning.
Last season's beaten finalists will kick-off the new campaign with a home encounter against Harlequins at Sandy Park on Saturday, October 19.
This is followed by televised trips to local rivals Bath on Friday, October 25 (7:45pm) and Worcester Warriors on Sunday, October 3 (3pm).
The BT Sport cameras will continue to follow the Chiefs for Round Four of the competition with a home encounter against Bristol Bears on Sunday, October 10 (3pm).
The opening two weeks of the Heineken Champions Cup are followed with a home encounter against Wasps on Saturday, November 30 (3pm), before it's back to European action with Round 3 & 4 during the opening two weeks of December.
The build-up to the hectic festive period begins with a trip to Welford Road on Saturday, December 21 (3pm), before the year is brought to a close with a mouth-watering encounter with reigning champions Saracens at Sandy Park on Sunday, December 29 (3pm).
The New Year begins in earnest with a trip to the Madjeski Stadium where newly-promoted London Irish lie in wait on Sunday, January 5 (2:30pm).
Commenting on the release of the fixture, Baxter said: "You can look at the fixtures over and over and it doesn't really change that much. I think every club knows that the league is very competitive and wherever you look in the season, you have games that you know are going to test you and be tough games of rugby.
"We saw last season how competitive the division was - right up until those final weeks of the season - and I've no doubt it's going to be the same again this season. If you look at what teams have been doing during the close season in terms of recruitment, squads have certainly got stronger. London Irish coming up have certainly strengthened well, Bristol have had a season now to build some real foundations, and a sides like Leicester will want to start strongly after what was a tough year for them last season."
Baxter added: "We know Harlequins first up will be a real challenge for us, particularly as they were one of the sides that beat us last year and who ran us very close here at Sandy Park. After that, we travel to Bath on a Friday night - a fixture which we know is traditionally very tough for us. It took us quite a while to get the better of Bath and although we've had the better of them in more recent years, it's never an easy game up there.
"We then go to Worcester away and have Bristol at home, again two tough games for us, so when you look at it like that it's an opening block of games which will certainly test us."
Although the Premiership Rugby Cup fixtures are not announced until later this month, Baxter says the competition - which the Chiefs will double up as their pre-season fixtures as well - will ensure all clubs head into the new season with some significant game time behind them.
"I think the first couple of rounds of the Premiership Rugby Cup will be interesting, just to see more than anything what teams clubs will field," said Baxter. "The last two rounds, however, I think teams will start to look more to the start of the Premiership and you'll get to see some pretty front-line teams playing in those games. Because it's at the start of the year due to the Rugby World Cup, I think it will actually help lift the profile of the competition as well, so it should provide a really good, competitive start to the season."
Tickets for all confirmed games are on sale now.