Bath Rugby, Gloucester Rugby and Exeter Chiefs will begin preparations for the 2015/16 Aviva Premiership season with a new tournament called the ‘West Country Challenge Cup’.
The three local rivals will lock horns in a series of competitive games, both home and away, during the months of September and October to kick-off the 2015/16 season in style.
The six mouth-watering fixtures have been set up to ensure all three clubs are given meaningful tests ahead of what is sure to be another action-packed campaign in English rugby's top tier.
Fixtures will be played at Bath's Recreation Ground, Exeter's Sandy Park Stadium and the Memorial Stadium in Bristol as Gloucester's regular home at Kingsholm will still be in use for World Cup pool matches.
The newly-created tournament is sure to prove a hit with rugby supporters across the region and has been mirrored by three rival Premiership clubs – Leicester Tigers, Newcastle Falcons and Sale Sharks – who themselves will be tackling one another in their own tournament, entitled 'Kings of the North'.
Welcoming the new tournament, Exeter Chiefs head coach, Rob Baxter, said: "Each year you want to get your season off to a solid start and all that begins by having a worthwhile and meaningful set of opening fixtures. For us, the opportunity to play the likes of Bath and Gloucester – two of our biggest rivals in the Premiership – will not only give us a good gauge of where we lie heading into the new season, but it will also provide us with four very competitive fixtures.
"At the same time, it's also a fantastic opportunity for the supporters of all three clubs to see what will be some top quality fixtures early in the new season."
Baxter's comments were echoed by Gloucester's Director of Rugby, David Humphreys, who added: "As always, we need meaningful playing action early in the season and what better than taking on two of our closest Aviva Premiership rivals in this West Country tournament?
"Kingsholm staging Rugby World Cup fixtures means that we will have to play our ‘home’ games in Bristol. However, the Memorial Stadium has staged some memorable rugby games over the years and, hopefully, our fans will be there in force to back us as we warm up for the 2015-16 season."
Meanwhile, Bath Head Coach Mike Ford believes all three clubs can reap rich rewards from featuring in the new tournament, saying: "Games against Exeter and Gloucester are always a highlight for us and our supporters, so we’re really looking forward to being involved. The Premiership is such a competitive league that we want to make sure we have the best preparation, and playing against two of our toughest competitors in the West Country Challenge Cup will make sure we are in the best place possible come the start of the Premiership campaign."
Full ticket details for the tournament will be announced in due course by all three participant clubs.
The West Country Challenge Cup
5th September – Exeter Chiefs v Gloucester Rugby
12th September – Gloucester Rugby v Bath Rugby
19th September – Exeter Chiefs v Bath Rugby
26th September – Bath Rugby v Gloucester Rugby
3rd October – Gloucester Rugby v Exeter Chiefs
10th October – Bath Rugby v Exeter Chiefs
** NOTE DATES AND KICK-OFF TIMES MAY BE SUBJECT TO CHANGE **