Defending Premiership Rugby Cup champions Northampton Saints have been drawn against Sale Sharks, Saracens and Wasps in the Pool stages of the 2019/20 competition.
With the fixtures announced today, the men in Black, Green and Gold will open up their campaign at the AJ Bell Stadium in Sale, before home matches against Saracens – a repeat of last year’s blockbuster final – and Wasps at Franklin’s Gardens.
“I was incredibly impressed with the way our guys came through and performed in the Cup last season, I thought it spoke volumes about the academy system we have at Saints.”Phil Dowson
Saints then round off the Pool stage and will hope to seal their spot in the semi-finals with a mouth-watering East Midlands Derby against Leicester Tigers at Welford Road, where the side have not been defeated in two seasons.
“We’ve already seen the benefit of getting young guys playing regularly in the Premiership Rugby Cup, so we’ll use it as that sort of opportunity again,” said Saints coach Phil Dowson.
“We fundamentally want to win it and we’ll put pressure on those young guys to perform and make sure they put their hands up like the guys did last year to play Premiership Rugby.
“I was incredibly impressed with the way our guys came through and performed in the Cup last season, I thought it spoke volumes about the academy system we have at Saints.
“The strength of character of some of those young guys was impressive – every single one of them stepped up and played well and a lot of that led to them playing in the Premiership later that year.”
Four weeks before the start of the Gallagher Premiership, the format of the competition sees England’s 12 top-flight clubs grouped into three pools of four, with the top team in each and the best runner-up across the pools qualifying for the semi-finals.
“The Cup is going to be important again. Obviously, it’s going to be different to last year but again it gives opportunities for young lads.”George Furbank
The final will be staged – once again – at the stadium of the highest-seeded side; the inaugural running of the competition, which replaced the Anglo-Welsh Cup, saw Saints overcome Saracens 23-9 in the final at Franklin’s Gardens last season.
George Furbank was among the Saints players who impressed last season – and the 22-year-old full-back expects this year’s competition to be another eye-opening experience.
He said: “It was great to get a trophy under our belt with the Premiership Rugby Cup, so we know how to win a trophy and hopefully we can carry that on into this campaign and go all the way.
“The Cup is going to be important again. Obviously, it’s going to be different to last year but again it gives opportunities for young lads.
“It also gives a chance to new players coming in, and guys who played in it last year, to put their hand up early on in the season and showcase what we’ve been working on in pre-season.”
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Northampton Saints’ Premiership Rugby Cup fixtures 2019/20
Saturday 21 September – Sale Sharks v Northampton Saints (AJ Bell Stadium, 3pm)
Saturday 28 September – Northampton Saints v Wasps (Franklin’s Gardens, 3pm)
Sunday 6 October – Northampton Saints v Saracens (Franklin’s Gardens, 3pm)
Saturday 12 October – Leicester Tigers v Northampton Saints (Welford Road, 3pm)
Premiership Rugby Cup Pools 2019/20