In arguably the best possible start for London Welsh’s new era in the Aviva Premiership, they will take on last season’s finalists Leicester Tigers at their new home, the Kassam Stadium in Oxford. Televised on Sky, the match will offer the Exiles an early chance to prove that they belong at this level in front of what should be a sellout crowd.
Welsh will have little time to fix any drastic errors though, as the week after they will take on Aviva Premiership champions Harlequins away at The Stoop. Losing these first two matches will not condemn their season by any means with 20 rounds to go, but it will tell us a lot of just how strong the Exiles are at the start of the season and where they need to improve.
The limited timescale for their preparations has already been discussed earlier this week and the names of Barry Davies, Gavin Henson and Gareth Owen have already been linked with the club just over the last couple of days. The project is underway and their journey is going to be fascinating to watch. With their final fixture at home to Worcester Warriors in what could be a relegation decider, it looks set to be a rollercoaster.
Looking elsewhere, London Irish and London Wasps will both look to show the worst is behind them when they take on Saracens and Harlequins in the London Double Header, with Bath also hoping for a fresh start when they travel to Sixways to take on Worcester. Leicester may have lost out last season but could be either 8 or 10 points clear by the end of Round 2 after taking on Welsh and Worcester in their first two games.
The Tigers will have circled their fixture in Round 4 though when they welcome champions Harlequins to Welford Road, looking for revenge after their 5th defeat in 8 finals at the end of last season. This year’s Big Game 5 at Twickenham will see Harlequins hosts London Irish, with Irish holding their annual St. Patrick’s Day fixture at home against Worcester Warriors in Round 18.
by Ben Coles