Gallagher Premiership Highlights - Round 12Dec 4
Seven unmissable games from the first seven rounds of the 2021/22 Premiership season on BT Sport
The fixtures for the 2021/22 Gallagher Premiership season have been confirmed, with BT Sport showing 29 live games from the opening seven rounds of league action
The new campaign has a lot to live up to after Harlequins emerged victorious from one of the most entertaining Premiership finals of all time and next term is already shaping up to be another classic with the return of five-time winners Saracens following their relegation last year.
With 21 live games to enjoy from the first seven weeks of action, we look ahead to seven unmissable match-ups from the opening months on BT Sport.
Friday, September 17 - 7.45pm kick-off
Last season's pacesetters Bristol Bears have been handed the honour of kicking off the new Gallagher Premiership season at home to newly-promoted Saracens.
The Bears reached the semi-finals last season only to suffer an agonising defeat to eventual champions Harlequins.
Now the Bristolians will raise the curtain on a brand new campaign on Friday 17 September in the first of three live games on BT Sport on opening weekend.
Bears director of rugby Pat Lam said: “It’s great that Bristol Bears will host the competition curtain-raiser and better still that we will have fans back at the stadium again.
"Having the opportunity to welcome Saracens back into the Gallagher Premiership will be a fantastic spectacle for our fans and BT Sport’s audience too.
“A capacity crowd at Ashton Gate, under the lights on a Friday night, always creates one of the best atmospheres in the country so we’re excited about getting underway.”
Saracens were relegated at the end of 2019-20 for repeated salary cap breaches but secured an immediate return to a new-look 13-club Premiership by winning the Greene King IPA Championship.
The match is set to see England players Max Malins and Ben Earl face a Bristol outfit where they spent last season on loan while Saracens campaigned in the second tier.
Director of rugby Mark McCall said: “As a club, we are obviously looking forward to the new season and what lies ahead. Playing at Ashton Gate first up will be a great challenge but one our group will relish.”
Will the five-time winners show any signs of rust on their return to the big time or will the Hertfordshire outfit lay down an early marker of their title ambitions by upsetiing last season's top dogs?
Bristol Bears v Bath
Friday, October 1 - 7.45pm kick-off
The BT Sport cameras return to Ashton Gate seven days later for the first West Country derby of the new season as Bath take on neighbours Bristol to kick round two off with a bang.
The Bears were the most consistent side in the competition last term, finishing three points clear of second-placed Exeter, and Lam will be determined to make a statement of intent with bitter rivals Bath in town.
Opening games do not come much tougher than Sarries and Bath so expect Lam to have his star-studded cast of entertainers primed and fired up for a crucial start to their tilt at a maiden Premiership title.
Across town the 2020/21 campaign was another disappointing one for a club of Bath's history and heritage and fans at The Rec will be expecting a whole lot more from Stuart Hooper's talented young side next season.
At their best, Bath are a match for any side in European rugby and the arrival of ex-England fly-half Danny Cipriani could help knit together a powerful pack with one of the most devastating backlines in the league.
Can the returning Cipriani help get the best from the likes of Anthony Watson, Jonathan Joseph and Cameron Redpath, or will it be another season of underachievement for a side still waiting for their first Premiership crown?
Leicester Tigers v Saracens
Saturday, October 2 - 3pm kick-off
After a round-two bye, newly-promoted Saracens continue life back in the big time with a trip to Welford Road to face Leicester Tigers in a clash between two of English rugby's most decorated sides.
With 13 Premiership crowns between them, this Saturday afternoon fixture is a genuine heavyweight clash as two former kings of domestic rugby go toe-to-toe.
For Saracens the match represents another acid test of thier credentials as title challengers, while hosts Leicester will be hoping to prove they're fit and ready to dine at the top table after years in the wilderness.
The Tigers last won the Premiership back in 2013 and have failed to make the final in the eight years since then but director of rugby Steve Borthwick has instilled renewed hope that there's life in Leicester yet.
Full-back Freddie Steward will be hoping to kick on after a breakthrough season that earned him a call-up to Eddie Jones' summer England squad, while the ever-improving Ellis Genge will be keen to lead from the front as the Tigers hunt a major early-season scalp.
Sunday, October 3 - 3pm kick-off
BT Sport's round three coverage concludes on Sunday afternoon with another gargantuan clash of the titans as last season's beaten finalists Exeter travel north to face Sale Sharks.
The match will be an early repeat of the June semi-final between the two clubs when Exeter produced a performance worthy of champions to prevail 40-30 at Sandy Park and book their place in the Twickenham showpiece against Harlequins.
Nearly four months on from their last Twickenham outing, the Chiefs will be out to exorcise the memories of that extraordinary day, with the Sharks providing an early test of their mettle as they target a seventh-successive Premiership final and a third league crown.
The Chiefs have four representatives in Warren Gatland's British and Irish Lions squad to take on the Springboks this summer and director of rugby Rob Baxter will have to manage those tired bodies on their return to Devon.
Will Player of the Season winner Sam Simmonds have the same try-scoring impact after a gruelling Lions tour? Or will Sale's Springbok contigent help avenge last season's semi-final heartbreak?
Harlequins v Bristol Bears
Friday, October 8 - 7.45pm kick-off
Our first chance to watch Harlequins continue their title defence on home soil comes in round four as last season's surprise package host table-toppers Bristol at the Twickenham Stoop.
A mouth-watering evening of Friday night entertainment sees Quins and Bristol go head-to-head for the first time since their historic semi-final showdown in June.
The Bears were heavy favourites to reach their first ever Premiership final having finished the regular season top of the pile, but underdogs Quins upset the odds to pull off the biggest comeback in the competition's history.
In a game for the ages, the match had to be settled in extra-time after Quins rallied from 28-0 at half-time to level the game in the dying seconds at Ashton Gate.
With the memory of that day still fresh in the memory for Lam and his side, expect Friday-night fireworks in west London as Bristol look to exact sweet revenge.
Northampton Saints v Leicester Tigers
Saturday, October 30 - 3pm kick-off
The East Midlands derby is always one of the biggest games in the English rugby calendar with local bragging rights on the line.
The first meeting of the season between these two bitter rivals takes place in round seven at Franklin's Gardens in a game that could provide early indication of both team's chances of silverware.
These two battled it out in the 2013 final in a pulsating match that saw Leicester Tigers crowned champions for the eighth time.
While Saints went on to go better the following year by beating Saracens in extra-time, neither team has tasted glory since then and it's high time these storied old clubs mounted a serious challenge again.
Having finished fifth and sixth respectively in the league table, Northampton and Leicester will both have ambitions of cracking the top four and securing a play-off berth next season.
Harlequins v Saracens
Sunday, October 31 - 3pm kick-off
A London derby with extra spice!
Always a fiercely competitive encounter, this capital city clash will have added significance as former winners Saracens face-off against defending champs Harlequins on Halloween.
Having helped end Quins' nine-year wait for a Premiership crown, veteran scrum-half Danny Care has tipped Sarries as his early-season favourites to lift the trophy next year.
Asked about the highly-anticipated resumption of the feisty Harlequins-Saracens rivalry next season, Care said: “ I knew they would come straight back and I’d have them as favourites to win the Premiership next year.
“I honestly would because the players that they have got, probably what they have gone through in the past year has brought them even closer together as a squad, their coaches have stayed fairly similar.
“They lost Alex Sanderson to Sale but more guys that have worked there for a long time are coming through. They have still got some of the very best players in the world.
"They are going to be top of the tree next year and fighting for this Premiership."
It all makes for a mouth-watering afternoon with England fly-halves Owen Farrell and Marcus Smith going toe-to-toe in an early audition for who will wear the number 10 shirt in the Six Nations.
What can I expect from BT Sport's Premiership coverage?
Every game shown on BT Sport will also be available to watch online on our enhanced player. With in-built try alerts, it allows you to re-watch key moments with our interactive timeline, meaning you need not miss a single try from what is expected to be an enthralling season.
For an unrivalled viewing experience, selected games will also be available in 4K HDR via BT Sport Ultimate.
BT Sport is also launching a new programme called 'The Rugby’s On', a chat show taking a humorous look at the past week’s rugby news.
Comedian and Saracens fan Hal Cruttenden will host, with guests including a cast of expert pundits and famous rugby fans from the world of entertainment.
For insight, news and analysis from BT Sport’s expert rugby pundits, Rugby Tonight will round up all of the action from the Premiership and beyond.
Rugby fans will also have more ways to watch rugby’s restart than ever, with the BT Sport Monthly Pass offering no-contract access for one month at a time, for just £25.
BT Sport’s Monthly Pass is available on a wide range of devices and platforms including Samsung smart TV, Sony PlayStation, Xbox, Now TV, Apple TV, as well as mobiles, tablets, BT TV, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media.
BT Sport is the exclusive live home of domestic and European club rugby and the only place you can watch the Gallagher Premiership, Heineken Champions Cup and European Challenge Cup all in one place.