This coming week sees the return of the London Double Header, signalling the start of domestic rugby in England. While the 2017/18 season will sees two fixtures held this Friday night, the double header at the home of English rugby is the weekend’s main event.
Each year the start of the Aviva Premiership sees two games back-to-back at Twickenham, in front off huge crowds, to begin what looks like one of the tightest seasons to date.
Reigning European champions Saracens kick the day off with their match against Northampton Saints, swiftly followed by a London derby featuring Harlequins and Premiership new boys London Irish, who return having spent two seasons in the Championship.
The games between Quins and the Exiles is a repeat of the first ever Double Header, held at Twickenham in 2004, in which the Exiles triumphed 18-12.
Ahead of the event, Harlequins director of rugby John Kingston said, ‘You could not hope for a better stage than Twickenham to play your first game of the season, it’s magnificent. It’s unique that you’re seeing four teams in one afternoon, the players enjoy the whole occasion, they love coming to Twickenham and they think it’s a brilliant environment to play.’
The London Double Header originally started out as a showcase involving the ‘big four’ teams of London – Saracens, Harlequins, London Irish and Wasps – but has had to adapt over the last decade due to relegations and relocations. Harlequins were relegated in 2004, as were London Irish in 2016, and in 2015 Wasps relocated to Coventry for financial reasons. With the constant changes happening at various clubs the direction of the event has altered over time and now has two London clubs ‘host’ away sides, with one usually being a newly promoted club.
‘It’s a huge, huge game the London Double Header against Harlequins,’ said London Irish boss Nick Kennedy. ‘Our guys have played in all sorts of places up and down the country and around Europe over the past year, but to play back here in front of a massive crowd is just something that all the guys are looking forward to so much. Everyone’s desperate to play to show how far we’ve come as a club since we were relegated, everybody wants to play at Twickenham so we can’t wait.’
In previous years the London Double Header has seen some exceptional games. In 2010, Irish defeated Saracens 33-16, with Sailosi Tagicakibau and Delon Armitage scoring brilliant tries. Two years later Harlequins came out top in an incredible match against Wasps, in which they came from 40-13 down with under 20 minutes to play to win 42-40, scoring four tries in the process.
Tickets to see the London Double Header at Twickenham are available here.
SARACENS vs NORTHAMPTON SAINTS: Kick-off at 2.00pm
LONDON IRISH vs HARLEQUINS: Kick-off at 4.45pm