DURHAM have announced their fixtures after being promoted back into the top division of the Bill Beaumont County Championship.
Last season’s Division Two winners will be grouped with Cheshire, Lancashire and Yorkshire, with three group games in May before the top team in the northern pool meets their southern equivalent at Twickenham on Sunday, May 26.
Durham’s opening game against Lancashire on Saturday, May 4, will be held at Hartlepool Rovers, before Gateshead RFC stages the visit of Cheshire a week later.
The campaign comes to a close against Yorkshire on Saturday, May 18, with the venue yet to be confirmed.
Northumberland, meanwhile, will scrap it out in Division Two following last season’s relegation, opening up at the East Midlands on May 4 and then hosting Eastern Counties on May 18.
Meanwhile, England Under-18s head coach John Fletcher has revealed his delight at the decision to stage their game against Scotland Under-18s at Darlington RFC on Saturday, March 3.
Fletcher, formerly director of rugby at Newcastle Falcons, said: “We are hugely excited about heading up to Darlington.
“They have excellent facilities and we have enjoyed great support at matches in other parts of the country in previous seasons.
“We deliberately try to move the games around the country, allowing rugby supporters an opportunity to watch England’s young and talented players play an international match.
“We have trained well so far this season and we’re really looking forward to getting out there and playing.
“It is always a really tough match against the Scots and they had a talented group last year at under-17 level.”
Darlington secretary Tony Stowe said: “We are a delighted to host this prestigious game and welcome the future stars of English and Scottish rugby to Darlington RFC for our very first International game of rugby.
“We are looking forward to a hosting a big crowd to provide an atmosphere worthy of the occasion, and hope the people of the North East and North Yorkshire come and support the England team.”
Tickets are available on the day of the game or from the club ticket office from February 1, priced at £5 for adults and £3 for under-16s.