Leicester Tigers will run out in front of supporters on all four sides of their home stadium for the first time in 18 months as the season opens against Exeter Chiefs on Saturday (3.00pm).
Tigers head coach Steve Borthwick, who describes the Chiefs as “the benchmark side” in recent years, said the afternoon presents an exciting opportunity with supporters back in Mattioli Woods Welford Road.
All four stands are open for the first time since the start of the Covid pandemic back in March 2020 and Borthwick said: “When we played Bristol at the end of last season [with a reduced crowd], you saw the emotion from the supporters, how much they wanted to cheer the team on.
“With the atmosphere, even as a fraction of capacity, you could see how much our supporters are with this team. I’ve known that all along, though we haven’t necessarily seen then in the ground.”
Borthwick, who has had his first full pre-season in the role after arriving last July, added: “I’m looking forward to this journey with our supporters with us. On Saturday we are going to need them against a team that have been in the last six Premiership Finals.”
Tigers set the ball rolling on a new campaign after pre-season dates with Jersey Reds and Welsh duo Dragons and Scarlets in recent weeks where Borthwick spread gametime throughout his squad, including a number of new arrivals.
Summer signings Eli Snyman and Francois van Wyk are included in the matchday squad for Saturday alongside hooker Tom Cowan-Dickie, though he misses out on a head-to-head with younger brother Luke who is not yet in club action after playing his part with the British & Irish Lions in the summer.
Chiefs were league and European champions in 2020 and were Premiership runners-up last season after finishing the league season in second place and meeting eventual winners Harlequins at Twickenham.
Their director of rugby Rob Baxter includes England internationals Jack Nowell and Henry Slade in his backline for the season-opener, while summer arrivals Sam Nixon (from Bayonne) and Ryan McCauley (Waratahs) are among the replacements.
Tigers will wear the 2021/22 home kit for the first time in league action and will be led out by new club captain Ellis Genge.
Match tickets are still available. Book online or phone 0116 319 8888 (option 2).
If you are unable to attend, there is live coverage on BT Sport or see the updates with the club’s Matchday Live service on app and website, or check out the club’s social media pages throughout the afternoon. There will be full reaction afterwards.