With the brand-new Premiership Rugby Cup launched this season, all 12 Gallagher Premiership Rugby clubs are involved in the revamped format which includes a new ‘Derby Day’ round.
With total prize money of more than half a million pounds, the new competition replaces the previous ‘Anglo-Welsh Cup’ and the final will be played in March 2019 at the home of the highest-seeded team remaining.
A Franklin’s Gardens showdown with newly-promoted Bristol Bears awaits Saints in round one, before back-to-back trips to Coventry and the West Country to face Wasps and Gloucester respectively in consecutive weekends.
Following a break while the Gallagher Premiership and European Challenge Cup get back underway, the ‘Derby Day’ weekend forms the feature clashes of the competition, and sees Saints host East Midlands rivals Leicester Tigers on home soil in the new year.
The Premiership Rugby Cup comprises three pools of four teams each, before the competition moves into the knockout phase – with the three pool winners and the best runner up moving into the semi-finals.
“The Cup has been a highly-successful competition in recent years in helping develop the best new Premiership and England players, in front of big crowds and TV audiences,” said Premiership Rugby chief executive, Mark McCafferty.
“The pathway for young players is now clear; linking the Under-18s League, the A League and now the Premiership Rugby Cup into one strong route towards Gallagher Premiership Rugby, European competitions and Test matches.
“Many Test players including Owen Farrell, George Ford and Maro Itoje all made their senior debuts in the Anglo-Welsh Cup. In addition, the competition has seen many different club coaches taking responsibility for the Cup team and developing their experience and skills in charge.
“This focus on new playing and coaching talent will continue in the new Cup format with young players and coaches experiencing the challenge of bigger crowds and TV exposure.
“More than 1.3m fans watched live coverage of the Cup on BT Sport last season, a 37% increase year-on-year. This competition is fundamental to developing young players for Premiership action in front of big crowds and more intense atmospheres.
“We are sad that our friends in the Welsh Regions will not be involved from this season, but we have been discussing for some time that they need to move a new structure, prioritising an Under-23 format.”
2006–07 Leicester Tigers
2008–09 Cardiff Blues
2009–10 Northampton Saints
2011–12 Leicester Tigers
2013–14 Exeter Chiefs
2015–16 No competition due to Rugby World Cup
2016–17 Leicester Tigers
2017–18 Exeter Chiefs