After seven all-action rounds, Premiership Rugby heads into a two week break in fine fettle, but rugby fans will not be left wanting this weekend as the Anglo-Welsh Cup returns to our screens for the first time in 18 months.
Following 10 years of competition, the Anglo-Welsh Cup took a year off last season to accommodate the Rugby World Cup but now it’s back giving the next generation of English and Welsh talent their chance to shine at the highest level.
The Anglo-Welsh Cup has seen no fewer than 169 current Premiership Rugby players make their club debuts – including the likes of England internationals Owen Farrell (Saracens), Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers), Semesa Rokoduguni (Bath Rugby), Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints) and Joe Marler (Harlequins) to name but a few.
Indeed reigning champions Saracens have come an awfully long way since Maro Itoje lifted the trophy this time 18 months ago.
That was Sarries’ first trophy since 2011 but they have since been crowned Aviva Premiership Rugby Champions (twice) and European Rugby Champions Cup titleholders – with Itoje progressing from Under-20 prospect to household name and England international.
For the first time ever, BT Sport are taking up the television rights this season, and will double the number of live matches screened all the way up to the tournament’s final at the Twickenham Stoop on Sunday 19 March.
The live TV action all begins when Bath Rugby take on Leicester Tigers at the Rec live on BT Sport 2 and BT Sport 4K UHD on Friday evening, with coverage beginning at 7.15pm.
The West Country outfit have been revitalised under Todd Blackadder this season, and will be looking to build that momentum with starlets Adam Hastings, Zach Mercer and Josh Bayliss set to take centre stage.
Meanwhile, having won all three of their Aviva A League matches, Leicester’s development side will be full of confidence and after skippering Tigers to great success so far, expect to see hot prospect Harry Thacker given a run out.
Harlequins then take on Exeter Chiefs in Saturday’s televised game, with coverage beginning at 5.15pm on BT Sport 2.
Chiefs got the better of their hosts when the two teams met in the Aviva A League last month thanks to tries from Elvis Taione, Moray Low, Shaun Malton and a brace from Ben White, but the likes of Ruaridh Jackson, Winston Stanley, and Ross Chisholm will all be looking to stake their claim for an extended run in the Quins’ team.
And should you miss out on the action, ITV will be showing highlights programmes throughout the Anglo-Welsh Cup run. Andy Goode will be your host on Sunday at 11.15pm (ITV), Monday at 5.40pm (ITV4), and Tuesday at 12.10am (ITV4).
Bath Rugby v Leicester Tigers – Programme starts at 7.15pm, kick-off 7.45pm BT Sport 2 and BT Sport 4K UHD
Harlequins v Exeter Chiefs – Programme starts at 5.15pm, kick-off 5.30pm BT Sport 2
ITV at 11.15pm
ITV4 at 5.40pm
ITV4 at 12.10am
Rugby Tonight – BT Sport 1 at 8pm
The Anglo-Welsh Cup kicks off this weekend and for all the fixtures and details of the Final at the Twickenham Stoop on 19 March see www.new-heroes.com