Premiership fixtures 2018/19: Saracens vs. Newcastle on first day

Reigning champions Saracens travel to Newcastle on the first day of the new Premiership season. David Rogers/Getty Images

Reigning champions Saracens will begin the defence of their Premiership title at Newcastle after the fixtures for the 2018/19 season were released.

Sarries begin with their longest trip of the season on Saturday September 1 while an enticing West Country derby between newly-promoted Bristol Bears and neighbours Bath will kick off the season on Friday August 31.

Elsewhere on the opening weekend last season's beaten finalists Exeter Chiefs are at home to Leicester, Worcester host Wasps, Gloucester face Northampton and Harlequins play Sale Sharks.

Saracens will once again be the team to beat after winning three of the last four Premiership titles but Exeter Chiefs will also be strong contenders and will meet the champions on the weekend before Christmas.

"it's certainly a sobering start to the season for us," said head coach Rob Baxter.

"That first four games [against Leicester, Wasps, Sale and Newcastle] you'd say it has a bit of everything for us and it underlines that we will have to get our heads down very quickly."

At the other end of the spectrum Bristol will be desperately hoping to survive after failing to maintain their top-level status the last time they were in the Premiership in 2016-17.

"It's great for us to be in the Gallagher Premiership and everybody is relishing the opportunity to test themselves in a fantastic competition," said Bristol head coach Pat Lam

"To open the season against Bath - and to come up against Todd [Blackadder], a man I know and respect a huge amount - is really exciting and a major boost for our supporters too. We have no doubt they will fill Ashton Gate and create an incredible atmosphere."