Just over three months after they lifted the Aviva Premiership trophy at Twickenham, Exeter begins the defence of their title in a West Country derby against Gloucester while Newcastle Falcons host Worcester Warriors.
Newcastle Falcons v Worcester Warriors
Simon Hammersley makes his first Aviva Premiership appearance in more than nine months as Newcastle Falcons kick off the new season at home to Worcester Warriors tomorrow (kick-off 7.45pm).
The fit-again full-back has scored in his last two pre-season appearances after recovering from an anterior cruciate ligament tear sustained last November, and forms part of a Falcons side which sees a competitive debut for Fijian international centre Josh Matavesi.
Sonatane Takulua starts at scrum-half in the week the Tongan signed a new four-year deal with the club, Joel Hodgson at fly-half in a side captained by flanker Will Welch.
Summer signings Toby Flood and DTH van der Merwe miss out with minor niggles, England international Mark Wilson taking up his place in the back row after a summer which saw him making his international debut in a 2-0 series win in Argentina.
Meanwhile, Will Spencer and Nick Schonert will return to action for Worcester Warriors.
The pair haven’t featured for Warriors in pre-season but are straight into the side which is led by new Club captain Donncha O’Callaghan.
Schonert starts in the front row with Ryan Bower and Jack Singleton while Spencer accompanies O’Callaghan in the second row.
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Simon Hammersley, 14 Alex Tait, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Josh Matavesi, 11 Belisario Agulla, 10 Joel Hodgson, 9 Sonatane Takulua, 1 Rob Vickers, 2 Kyle Cooper, 3 Jon Welsh, 4 Calum Green, 5 Will Witty, 6 Mark Wilson, 7 Will Welch (captain), 8 Callum Chick
Replacements: 16 Scott Lawson, 17 Sami Mavinga, 18 Trevor Davison, 19 Tevita Cavubati, 20 Nili Latu, 21 Sam Stuart, 22 Craig Willis, 23 Juan Pablo Socino
Worcester Warriors: 15 Josh Adams, 14 Dean Hammond, 13 Wynand Olivier, 12 Jackson Willison, 11 Bryce Heem, 10 Tom Heathcote, 9 Jonny Arr, 1 Ryan Bower, 2 Jack Singleton, 3 Nick Schonert, 4 Donncha O’Callaghan (C), 5 Will Spencer, 6 Matt Cox, 7 Sam Lewis, 8 GJ van Velze
Replacements: 16 Joe Taufete’e, 17 Ethan Waller, 18 Biyi Alo, 19 Pierce Phillips, 20 Alafoti Faosiliva, 21 Peter Stringer, 22 Sam Olver, 23 Ben Te’o
Gloucester v Exeter Chiefs
Kingsholm is the venue once again for the opening game of the Aviva Premiership Rugby season as Gloucester Rugby take on the Exeter Chiefs on Friday September 1st (kick off 7:45pm). Willi Heinz will skipper the side.
There are two debutants in the starting XV for the Cherry and Whites – Fraser Balmain and Jason Woodward – with three more potentially amongst the replacements in Gareth Denman, Ed Slater and Ruan Ackermann.
Meanwhile, although Rob Baxter has added six new faces to the playing ranks at Sandy Park in the summer, only one – Aussie scrum-half Nic White – makes the starting XV for tomorrow’s encounter.
Fellow newcomer and former Cherry & Whites favourite, Matt Kvesic, is named among the Exeter replacements.