LONDON: English Premiership champions Leicester Tigers will begin the defence of their title at Sale in early September, it was announced on Wednesday.

The first weekend of September also feels the London double header at Twickenham with Saracens facing last season's beaten league play-off finalists London Irish and Wasps up against Harlequins.

There is also a west country derby at Kingsholm, as Gloucester - now being coached by former Scotland scrum-half Bryan Redpath - host Bath.

Newly-promoted Leeds, meanwhile, face Newcastle with Northampton meeting Worcester in a repeat of their opening weekend match last season

The second weekend's action sees Irish taking on Leicester in a repeat of last month's Premiership final.

Matches will also take place over the holiday weekends of December 26 and 27 and January 2 and 3, with the regular Premiership season concluding on May 8, play-offs scheduled a week later and the final on May 29.

Premier Rugby's commercial director Jon Varney said: "The 2009/10 season has a lot to live up to, with last season acknowledged as being our most successful to date.

"There are always a few surprises in the Guinness Premiership, and it will be interesting to see which teams go on to challenge at the top despite not being among the bookies' favourites, like Harlequins and London Irish did last season."

Clubs will now select dates and times for their matches.