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Aviva Premiership
Northampton open title defence against Gloucester
ESPN Staff
July 4, 2014
Wasps' Andy Goode and Tom Varndell pose with the Premiership trophy. Wasps kick off the new season against Saracens © Getty Images

Premiership champions Northampton Saints will kick off the defence of their title at home against Gloucester on Friday, September 5.

Saints, who defeated Saracens in extra time in a thrilling final last May, will play the league opener at Franklin's Gardens, before the London clubs take centre stage with a Saturday double-header at Twickenham. Runners-up Saracens will take on Wasps, followed by London Irish against Harlequins on September 6.

The first Saturday will also see Sale welcome Bath to the AJ Bell Stadium and Leicester take on Newcastle at Welford Road. Newly-promoted London Welsh will then kick off their campaign at home to Exeter Chiefs in the final match of the opening weekend, on Sunday, September 7.

The enthusiasm of Premiership clubs for staging showpiece matches at bigger stadiums appears to be growing, with Northampton confirming they will play their 'home' clash with Saracens at the 30,500-capacity stadiummk in Milton Keynes on April 25, 2015.

Saracens will also expect another bumper crowd when they return to Wembley on Saturday, March 28. Mark McCall's men will once again take on Harlequins at the home of English football, aiming to better the world-record 83,889 crowd that watched their 39-17 victory over their London rivals last season. Quins meanwhile, will celebrate Christmas with a showpiece match against Northampton at Twickenham on December 27.

"It will be exciting to start the 2014/15 season under the lights on a Friday night and at home at Franklin's Gardens," Northampton director of rugby Jim Mallinder said. "The last time we played at home was the Aviva Premiership Rugby semi-final, and if we can start next season in the same type of atmosphere as we finished 2013/14 then it will be tremendous. Gloucester have made a lot of changes behind the scenes this summer, and it will be an exciting test."

Wasps will host another 'Stinger' showpiece at Twickenham when they take on Exeter on April 25. The home of English rugby will then host the Premiership final on Saturday, May 30.

Northampton will meet Leicester for the first East Midlands derby on December 20, while Gloucester will also take on Bath that same day on what promises to be a spicy weekend of rugby.

The derbies will be repeated on the final day of the season, as Leicester host Northampton and Bath welcome Gloucester to the Rec. Exeter will take on Sale, London Irish will meet Wasps, London Welsh will host Saracens and Newcastle will take on Harlequins on May 16.

All fixtures after round six are subject to change due to television scheduling.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd

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