Harlequins head coach Tabai Matson thinks upcoming fixture list Gallagher Premiership the season took on greater significance due to the truncated nature of the campaign.
Leicester will begin their title defense against Exeter at Sandy Park as the domestic season kicks off on September 9 with a Friday night West Country derby between Bristol and Bath at Ashton Gate, while Sale host Northampton.
The Premiership final takes place on May 27 – three weeks earlier than this year – to help the England boss Eddie Jones with preparations for the 2023 World Cup.
The Tigers were crowned champions for the first time since 2013 when Freddie Burns’ final goal gave them victory over Saracens at Twickenham two months ago.
Saracens have a first-round bye on September 9-11 but then kick off their domestic campaign by traveling to Harlequins, with Matson insisting the drop in fixtures will have greater visibility than usual on the progress of the season.
“Looking at your matches it becomes a bit of a chance of the draw – more so than any other recent year due to the shorter season and when we lose our players to internationals,” he told the PA news agency.
“If you’re playing against a team that’s not affected at all and because the competition is so tight, that certainly matters and there will definitely be some of these unexpected results in those times.”
Championship games are scheduled on two of three World Rugby-sanctioned autumn Test weekends in November, while Premiership action also clashes on all but one of five Guinness Six Nations weekends between early February and mid-March.
Given these factors, Matson believes the battle for the top four will be more competitive than ever.
“I think the teams that have always been successful have managed their roster well and have been able to rest their players when they can rest them. It will be huge this year,” he added.
“More so due to the truncated season, having the healthiest roster is going to be critical. It’s still the best competition in the world. I look at our schedule and I’m like, ‘Damn, every team is good’.
“So I don’t expect to be in the top four – to be in the top four this year will be the same as last year, very competitive, probably more.”
“I think you can plan for it, but it certainly has consequences if you have to do this week after week. We want our players to play for England, as well as other nations, so I think we’ll deal with that when the time comes.
Premiership Rugby has confirmed that in addition to live coverage from BT Sport, the Twickenham showpiece will be shown live on the main ITV channel for the first time.
There are a fortnight between the Premiership play-offs and the final due to the Heineken Champions Cup and European Challenge Cup finals being played in Dublin on May 19-20.
Leicester head coach Steve Borthwick said: “We are very excited for the new Gallagher Premiership season and the challenges that come with being in one of rugby union’s most competitive leagues.
“Kicking off our away campaign against a quality team like Exeter will be a great opportunity to test ourselves in the first round against a team of their caliber.”
And Bath boss Johann van Graan added: “We relish the opportunity to open the season with a local derby. Before that, there is a lot of hard work to be done by everyone at the club, and we will continue to build towards that first round.
Premiership opening schedule
September 9 – Bristol v Bath, Sale v Northampton
September 10: Exeter v Leicester, London Irish v Worcester, Newcastle v Harlequins
September 11: Gloucester v Wasps.
Falling fixtures will impact truncated season, says Harlequins boss
Source link Falling fixtures will impact truncated season, says Harlequins boss