Aviva Premiership Rugby rivals Leicester Tigers, Newcastle Falcons and Sale Sharks will come together in the Kings of the North tournament in September.
With the start to the league campaign delayed by the hosting of the Rugby World Cup in England, the three most northerly clubs in domestic top-flight competition will face each other in the build-up to the big Aviva Premiership Rugby kick-off in October.
Leicester Cathedral, in the public spotlight as the final resting place of King Richard III, hosted the Kings of the North launch on Thursday in the company of the clubs' directors of rugby – Richard Cockerill, Dean Richards and Steve Diamond – plus invited guests, media representatives and supporters.
The three clubs face each other home and away in the Kings of the North, starting with the visit of Sale Sharks to Newcastle Falcons during the opening weekend of September and running up to Leicester's home game against Sharks on the weekend of 10 October, just one week ahead of the new Aviva Premiership Rugby season.
Leicester Tigers director of rugby Richard Cockerill said: "The start of the season is an exciting part of the year for coaches, players and supporters. Everyone always wants to get the league season off to a good start and the Kings of the North provides a perfect opportunity to get a run of games together ahead of kick-off in the league campaign."
Sale Sharks director of rugby Steve Diamond said: "Club rugby is built on rivalries and we look forward to contesting the title of Kings of the North with Leicester and Newcastle. All three teams will be fine-tuning their work ahead of the start of the league season and there should be some good contests home and away."
Newcastle Falcons director of rugby Dean Richards said: "As the most northerly club in top-flight rugby, Falcons are delighted to be part of the Kings of the North tournament. I’m sure it will provide a high-profile curtain-raiser to the new season for all three clubs and we look forward to welcoming the teams and supporters from Sharks and Tigers to Kingston Park.
"Playing Sale and Tigers will allow us to come back from what will have been a long summer and immediately test our new players, systems and processes, which will hopefully play a key role in us hitting the ground running when the Aviva Premiership starts in October.
"With the competition running as Rugby World Cup 2015 kicks off, I hope that the club will see good crowds at what will be hugely competitive fixtures while rugby is at the front of people’s minds."
A dedicated website at www.kingsofthenorth.net is live from today and will include match details, ticket advice and news updates, or see the official websites of the three participating clubs.
Kings of the North fixtures:
4/5/6 September: Newcastle Falcons v Sale Sharks
11/12/13 September: Sale Sharks v Leicester Tigers
18/19/20 September: Leicester Tigers v Newcastle Falcons
25/26/27 September: Newcastle Falcons v Leicester Tigers
2/3/4 October: Sale Sharks v Newcastle Falcons
9/10/11 October: Leicester Tigers v Sale Sharks