RUGBY UNION: ESPN & Sky Sports confirm opening live Aviva Premiership games

ESPN and Sky Sports have announced their first set of live Aviva Premiership matches that will be shown over the opening eight rounds of the season.

Defending champions Harlequins will kick off the 2012/13 campaign when they take on London Wasps in a double-header at Twickenham, also featuring Saracens against London Irish, with both games live in front of ESPN cameras on September 1.

Newly promoted London Welsh face 2010 champions Leicester in their debut match in English rugby union’s top flight, and this will be the first of nine live games on Sky Sports between September and November.

Full details of both channel’s live Aviva Premiership coverage below:

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ESPN has announced the first set of Aviva Premiership Rugby fixtures it will televise live and exclusively when the new 2012/13 season gets underway.

Coverage kicks off on Saturday 1st September with the London Double Header from Twickenham, as London Wasps take on reigning champions Harlequins live on ESPN, followed by Saracens v London Irish which will be shown live on ESPN Classic.

Another double header follows a week later, this time with live coverage all afternoon from Salford City Stadium, where Sale Sharks play their first Aviva Premiership match at home, hosting Saracens. That match is preceded by coverage of Bath playing host to Wasps.

Saracens feature another three times on ESPN – on September 23 against Exeter Chiefs, and then on October 7, when ESPN cameras will be live from Kassam Stadium for the first time when newly promoted London Welsh welcome their London rivals.

In addition, Saracens’ meeting with London Wasps on November 4 will also be shown live. 

Champions Harlequins will feature two more times as they look to build on their success of last season.

ESPN will have live coverage of the re-match of last season’s Aviva Premiership Final when Harlequins travel to take on Leicester Tigers on September 22, in addition to Quins’ London derby with London Irish on October 28.

Two more matches involving Leicester Tigers, against Exeter Chiefs (Sep 29) and Northampton Saints (Nov 3), are set to be aired on ESPN,

The Saints feature twice more on ESPN in the first two live televised Friday night games against Bath (Sep 14) and Wasps (Sep 28).

Further live matches on ESPN include two Gloucester matches – away to Worcester Warriors (Sep 15) and at home to Bath (Oct 6).

ESPN’s live Aviva Premiership coverage will once again be broadcast on-site at all the grounds, with lead presenter Mark Durden-Smith alongside analysts Austin Healey and Ben Kay, as well as a special guest from the world of rugby each week.

Match commentary will come from Nick Mullins together with Healey and Kay, and Sarra Elgan will continue as ESPN’s chief rugby reporter, bringing all the news and player interviews from pitchside.

ESPN will have exclusive live coverage of one semi-final and the Aviva Premiership Final at Twickenham at the end of the season, and will also continue to air extensive Aviva Premiership highlights, with a 60-minute programme airing each Monday evening.

Commenting on the announcement of the live fixtures, ESPN’s Jeroen Oerlemans said:  “We’re excited about the kick-off of ESPN’s third season as the lead television partner for Aviva Premiership Rugby and are looking forward to a great schedule of early matches.

“We’re very proud of our award-winning coverage and the innovation and personality we’ve brought to coverage of rugby.

“Fans can again expect to have a great, fun viewing experience that brings them closer to the many aspects of the game.”

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Sky Sports will kick off its coverage of the 2012/13 Aviva Premiership season from Kassam Stadium where newly promoted London Welsh will host seven times Premiership champions Leicester Tigers.

The Exiles clinched the RFU Championship with a 66-41 aggregate victory over the Cornish Pirates, while Leicester Tigers finished second in the Aviva Premiership table last season.

Sky’s live schedule includes all four semi-finalists from last season including Saracens hosting Leicester Tigers at Wembley Stadium on September 15.

Defending champions Harlequins will face Saracens again at Twickenham Stoop in Round 5 on September 30. Saracens finished third in the table last season, just two points behind Harlequins.

Then on October 27, Sky Sports will broadcast back-to-back matches with Bath against Exeter Chiefs at The Rec, and Gloucester against Leicester Tigers at Kingsholm.

Aviva Premiership rugby forms part of Sky’s extensive rugby union coverage during the 2012/13 season with domestic, European and international matches all live on Sky Sports, including England’s autumn internationals at Twickenham, and culminating with the British Lions’ tour to Australia.

Live broadcasts are supported by the weekly magazine show The Rugby Club, now in its 19th year, which features in-depth previews, analysis and reaction throughout the season.

Alex Payne presents Sky’s rugby coverage, with analysts including Dewi Morris, Will Greenwood, Ieuan Evans, Scott Quinnell, Dean Ryan and Paul Wallace, along with Southern Hemisphere legends Sean Fitzpatrick and Michael Lynagh.

Miles Harrison and Stuart Barnes will be behind the mic for many of the big games once again during the season.

Viewers can continue to benefit from live Aviva Premiership coverage through Sky Go on PCs, laptops, smartphones, tablets and games consoles. There is also 24/7 coverage on skysports.com, plus the breaking news, views and scores round the clock on Sky Sports News.

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Saturday 1st September
Wasps v Harlequins
14:00 – ESPN
 
Saracens v London Irish
16:30 – ESPN Classic
 
Sunday 2nd September
London Welsh v Leicester
13:30 – Sky Sports
 
Saturday 8th September
Bath v Wasps
14:15 – ESPN
 
Sale v Saracens
16:30 – ESPN
 
Sunday 9th September
Northampton v Exeter Chiefs
15:00 – Sky Sports
 
Friday 14th September
Bath v Northampton
19:45 – ESPN
 
Saturday 15th September
Worcester v Gloucester
13:30 – ESPN
 
Saracens v Leicester
15:30 – Sky Sports
 
Saturday 22nd September
Leicester v Harlequins
17:30 – ESPN
 
Gloucester v Wasps
15:15 – Sky Sports
 
Sunday 23rd September
Exeter Chiefs v Saracens
14:15 – ESPN
 
Friday 28th September
Northampton v Wasps
19:45 – ESPN
 
Saturday 29th September
Leicester v Exeter Chiefs
14:15 – ESPN
 
Sunday 30th September
Harlequins v Saracens
14:00 – Sky Sports
 
Friday 5th October
Sale v Leicester
20:00 – Sky Sports
 
Saturday 6th October
Gloucester v Bath
14:15 – ESPN
 
Sunday 7th October
London Welsh v Saracens
14:15 – ESPN
 
Saturday 27th October
Bath v Exeter Chiefs
14:30 – Sky Sports
 
Gloucester v Leicester
16:45 – Sky Sports
 
Sunday 28th October
London Irish v Harlequins
14:15 – ESPN
 
Saturday 3rd November
Leicester v Northampton
14:15 – ESPN
 
Harlequins v Gloucester
17:15 – Sky Sports
 
Sunday 4th November
Saracens v Wasps
14:15 – ESPN
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Free-to-air highlights from every round of the Aviva Premiership will continue to be shown on ITV1 and ITV4
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