Hooper happy with home start
PA Sport
June 15, 2007

Guinness Premiership newcomers Leeds face the daunting task of opening their league campaign against last season's grand finalists Gloucester.

The Cherry and Whites, boasting a young side brimming with potential, finished top of the regular season table before being destroyed by Leicester at Twickenham.

But they have recruited well over the summer and most of the new signings arelikely to be available on day one of the season - particularly rugby league ace Lesley Vainikolo and the versatile Leon Lloyd.

Leeds' recruitment has largely been restricted to signing players fromNational League One - four have arrived from Rotherham - but captain Stuart Hooper is relishing the challenge.

``Gloucester will be a huge challenge for us, they finished top last season and they are one of the top teams in the Premiership,'' said Hooper.

``Pre-season training starts for us on Monday and we know that is our firstg ame now. Being at home is great.

``People may view us as underdogs because we have come up from Division One,but we are focused on what we can do.

``People keep asking me who I am looking forward to playing against but I am actually more excited about our team and being back in the Premiership.

``It will be good to come up against some former team-mates next season andfor me personally it will be exciting playing against Tom Palmer for Wasps in the final game of the season. I have played against him in the past and it is always a tough game.''

Premier Rugby have decided against moving the season-opening London double-header from Twickenham to the new Wembley Stadium.

The Guinness Premiership clubs initially felt the added `wow factor' of staging the event at the 90,000 capacity Wembley could help bolster interest in the domestic game while the World Cup is on.

But it eventually came down to a commercial decision - one factor could be the Rugby Football Union provide Twickenham at cost price - and the double-header remains at HQ.

The new season kicks off on the weekend of September 15 and 16, with Heineken Cup winners Wasps meeting Saracens and London Irish tackling Harlequins.

Reigning Premiership champions Leicester open their title defence away at Bristol, Mike Ruddock's Worcester travel to Bath and Newcastle host Sale.

The Premiership will be a disjointed affair this season with the first six rounds taking place during the World Cup.

And between the weekends of October 20 and December 22 there will be just one round of league matches - on November 24 - as clubs squeeze in the EDF Energy Cup and European competition.

At present the dates of all fixtures remain provisional and are subject to change.

But the initial fixture list indicates there will be no repeat of last season's brutal schedule over Christmas, when the clubs were asked to play four times in 16 days.

There are currently no fixtures planned for Boxing Day or New Year's Day, with Premiership rounds eight and nine scheduled for the weekends before and after Christmas.

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