Worcester have been handed a start to their fifth Guinness Premiership season that is both intriguing and difficult.
The Warriors will be Northampton’s first opponents, on the weekend of September 6-7, following the Saints’ return to the top flight after a year marauding through National One in which, like Worcester in 2003-04, they went unbeaten through an entire campaign.
The following week, they must travel from a venue where they have never lost to one where they have never won to take on reigning champions London Wasps at Adams Park.
That appointment marks the first of three dates with teams that made the play-offs last term, the next comes with the first league game at Sixways a week later when Leicester Tigers arrive.
A trip to Bath ends a month that will either confirm the recent progress made by Mike Ruddock’s men or shape another season of struggle. They end on April 25 at home to London Irish but do not face local rivals Gloucester until round 18 and they will visit Kingsholm in the penultimate match of the season.
“Starting with a trip to Franklin’s Gardens to tackle Northampton will be a fantastic occasion and real cracking way to start the new season,” Ruddock said.
“It is a difficult start for us as they are re-joining the top flight and will want to start their campaign flying high.
“They have recruited strongly and they will be determined to learn from their last season in the Premiership, however we will take a lot of confidence forward from last season and we will also be looking to hit the ground running.”
“Our first home clash is a mouth-watering one against Leicester Tigers, a team never to be underestimated as they showed last season by making the final after been written off. We will be aiming to set the tone on home soil once again. It’s a tough start for us with two away games but also a very exciting one.”
* Worcester Warriors - Guinness Premiership fixtures 2008/09
5/6/7 September – Northampton (a)
12/13/14 September – London Wasps (a)
19/20/21 September – Leicester (h)
26/27 September – Bath (a)
Wed 1 October – Harlequins (h)
14/15/16 November – Sale (a)
21/22/23 November - Newcastle (h)
28/29/30 November – Saracens (a)
19/20/21 December - Bristol (h)
26/27/28 December – Newcastle (a)
2/3/4 January - Sale (h)
9/10/11 January – Harlequins (a)
13/14/15 February – Bath (h)
20/21/22 February – Leicester (a)
27/28 Feb, 1 March - London Wasps (h)
6/7/8 March – Northampton (h)
13/14/15 March – London Irish (a)
20/21/22 March – Gloucester Rugby (h)
27/28/29 March – Bristol (a)
3/4/5 April – Saracens (h)
17/18/19 April – Gloucester (a)
25/26 April - London Irish (h)
*actual dates to be finalised.