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Exeter Chiefs begin Premiership defence with trip to Gloucester

Exeter players celebrate their Premiership final win at Twickenham. David Rogers/Getty Images

Exeter will begin the defence of their Aviva Premiership title in a west country derby against Gloucester at Kingsholm on Friday, Sept. 1.

The fixture launches the 2017-18 season alongside Newcastle's home clash with Worcester, which is staged on the same evening.

Runners-up Wasps, who lost 23-20 to Exeter in the final two months ago, launch their quest for the crown against Sale at the Ricoh Arena on Sept. 2.

The customary Twickenham double-header returns on the Saturday when European champions Saracens face Northampton before promoted London Irish tackle Harlequins.

Two old rivals complete the opening weekend's fixtures when Leicester and Bath meet at Welford Road.

"It doesn't matter who won the Premiership last season, the league table right now says zero points and we have got to start collecting them again," Exeter director of rugby Rob Baxter said.

"In a lot of ways, Gloucester is a really good starting fixture for us because the players will look at it and know it's a big challenge and know we have to start very well.

"Gloucester will be buoyed by some new signings and a new head coach so it is a very interesting start point for us."

Among the fixtures confirmed for the first 10 weeks of the season up to Dec. 3 is Newcastle's match against Saracens in Philadelphia on Sept. 16.

Saracens, meanwhile, have announced their London derby against Harlequins will be played at London Stadium on March 24.