The new Gallagher Premiership Rugby season kicks off on Friday with an enthralling encounter that sees Saracens begin life back in the top-flight against Bristol Bears following their promotion at the end of last term.

Bristol Bears against Saracens gets underway at 7:45pm at Ashton Gate before an action-packed weekend of Premiership action.

Harlequins, who are defending their Premiership crown having defeated Exeter Chiefs in the final at Twickenham after finishing fourth in the regular table, begin their campaign against Newcastle Falcons away on Sunday.

And runners-up Exeter Chiefs face a tricky opening at Leicester Tigers on Saturday.

And ahead of the curtain-raiser to the new season, we have given a lowdown of the 13 teams - with no sides having been relegated last term due to the Covid pandemic - who will battle it out in the Premiership this time round.

The new Gallagher Premiership Rugby season gets underway on Friday between Bristol Bears and Saracens (

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Getty Images)

BATH

Ground: The Rec (capacity 18,000)
Rugby director: Stuart Hooper
Last 5 seasons (2017-21): 5th, 6, 6, 4 (semi-finals), 7
Stars in: Danny Cipriani (Gloucester)
Stars out: Zach Mercer, Henry Thomas, Rhys Priestland, Will Chudley, Jamie Bhatti, Elliott Stooke, Jack Walker, Ross Batty
Prediction: Serial underachievers given stardust in their squad. Added hope with arrival of Cipriani who always starts well. 8th
Title odds: 25-1

BRISTOL

Ground: Ashton Gate (27,000)
Rugby director: Pat Lam
Last 5 seasons: 12 (relegated), 1 (promoted), 9, 3, 1 (s/f)
Stars in: Tom Whiteley (Saracens)
Stars out: Ben Earl, Max Malins, Chris Cook, Siale Piutau
Prediction: Improved every year under Lam, though shocked by Quins in the June semi-final after ending season as top dogs. 4th
Odds: 5-1

EXETER

Ground: Sandy Park (13,652)
Rugby director: Rob Baxter
Last 5 seasons: 2 (runners-up), 1 (champions), 1 (r/u), 1 (r/u), 1 (champ), 2 (r/u)
Stars in: Josh Iosefa-Scott (Waikato), Sean O’Brien (Connacht)
Stars out: Tomas Francis, Alex Cuthbert, Elvis Taione
Prediction: Finalists for last six years with ingrained culture of excellence. Expect another post-season. 3rd
Odds: 9-4

GLOUCESTER

Ground: Kingsholm (16,115)
Head coach: George Skivington
Last 5 seasons: 9, 7, 3 (s/f), 7, 11
Stars in: Adam Hastings (Glasgow)
Stars out: Danny Cipriani, Willi Heinz, Matt Garvey, Tom Hudson
Prediction: Fell away badly last season and will hope Hastings can kick-start a resurgence. Lack strength in depth. 12th
Odds: 50-1

HARLEQUINS

Ground: Twickenham Stoop (14,816)
Senior coach: Tabai Matson
Last 5 seasons: 6, 10, 5, 6, 4 (champs)
Stars in: Tommaso Allan (Benetton), Huw Jones (Glasgow)
Stars out: Mike Brown, Nathan Earle, Scott Baldwin (Worcester), Ben Tapuai, James Lang
Prediction: Sensational triumph last season but will lose players to Test rugby and face battle to make play-off return. 6th
Odds: 11-1

Harlequins are the defending champions heading into the 2021-22 season (

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PA)

LEICESTER

Ground: Mattioli Woods Welford Road (25,849)
Head coach: Steve Borthwick
Last 5 seasons: 4 (s/f), 5, 11, 11, 6
Stars in: Freddie Burns (Japan), Juan Pablo Socino (Saracens)
Stars out: Johnny McPhillips, Tomas Lavanini, Zack Henry, Ben White
Prediction: Borthwick is building an imposing squad who should improve on last season’s sixth place. 5th
Odds: 20-1

LONDON IRISH

Ground: Brentford Community Stadium (17,250)
Rugby director: Declan Kidney
Last 5 seasons: 1 (promoted), 12 (relegated), 1 (pro), 10, 9
Stars in: Marcel Van Der Merwe (La Rochelle), Ben White (Leicester), Rory Jennings (Clermont)
Stars out: Waisake Naholo, TJ Ioane, Blair Cowan, Tom Homer
Prediction: Move to Brentford has given club a real buzz and expect them to be stronger than sum of their parts. 10th
Odds: 125-1

NEWCASTLE

Ground: Kingston Park (10,200)
Rugby director: Dean Richards
Last 5 seasons: 8, 4, 12 (rel), 1 (pro), 10
Stars in: Mike Brown, Nathan Earle (both Harlequins)
Stars out: Tom Arscott, Joel Matavesi, Cooper Vuna, John Hardie.
Prediction: Brown and Earle are serious signings who will add class to an already improving squad. 11th
Odds: 150-1

NORTHAMPTON

Ground: Franklin’s Gardens (15,200)
Rugby director: Chris Boyd
Last 5 seasons: 7, 9, 4 (s/f), 8, 5
Stars in: Frank Lomani (Melbourne, Aus), Juarno Augustus (Stormers, SA), Chris Cook (Bristol).
Stars out: Francois Van Wyk, Owen Franks, Harry Mallinder.
Prediction: Better last season but still not the force they would expect of themselves. Dan Biggar back at helm after bruising Lions tour. 7th
Odds: 25-1.

SALE

Ground: AJ Bell Stadium (12,000)
Rugby director: Alex Sanderson.
Last 5 seasons: 10, 8, 7, 5, 3 (s/f)
Players in: Tommy Taylor, Simon McIntyre (both Wasps), Nick Schonert (Worcester)
Players out: WillGriff John, Jake Cooper-Woolley, Valery Morozov
Prediction: Getting better year on year and under Sanderson can make it all the way to Twickenham this season. 2nd
Odds: 7-1

SARACENS

Ground: StoneX Stadium (10,500)
Rugby director: Mark McCall
Last 5 seasons: 3 (s/f), 2 (champ), 2 (champ), 12 (demoted), 2 (pro)
Stars in: Ivan Van Zyl (Bulls, SA), Ethan Lewis (Cardiff)
Stars out: Ali Crossdale, Tom Whiteley, Juan Pablo Socino, Jonathan Kpoku, Michael Rhodes
Prediction: Back in the big time and with salary cap shame behind them and loan stars all recalled should once again be formidable. 1st
Odds: 9-4

Saracens will be desperate to get off to an emphatic start on their return to the top-flight on Friday (

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Getty Images)


WASPS

Ground: Coventry Building Society Arena (32,609)
Head coach: Lee Blackett
Last 5 seasons: 1 (r/u), 3 (s/f), 8, 2 (r/u), 8
Stars in: Francois Hougaard (Worcester), Elliott Stooke (Bath), Ali Crossdale (Saracens), Nizaam Carr (Bulls, SA), Vaea Fifita (Hurricanes, NZ)
Stars out: Will Rowlands, Lima Sopoaga, Tommy Taylor, Simon McIntyre, Kieran Brookes, Juan De Jongh
Prediction: Injury-plagued season killed their 2020/21 momentum and it might take a while yet for Wasps to hit their straps. 9th
Odds: 25-1

WORCESTER

Ground: Sixways (11,499)
Head coach: Jonathan Thomas
Last 5 seasons: 11, 11, 10, 9, 12
Stars in: Duhan Van Der Merwe, Rory Sutherland (both Edinburgh), Scott Baldwin (Harlequins), Owen Williams (Japan), Willi Heinz, Matt Garvey (both Gloucester), Christian Judge, Will Chudley (both Bath)
Stars out: Duncan Weir, Francois Hougaard, Schonert, Cornell Du Preez
Prediction: Huge turnover of players but hard to see even arrival of two Scottish Lions keeping them out of basement. 13th
Odds: 100-1

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