THE Welsh regions will kick off the pre-season Premiership Rugby 7s tournament as part of their sponsorship deal with BT Sport, writes Chris Kirwan.

Newport Gwent Dragons, the Ospreys, Cardiff Blues and the Scarlets will take each other on in the capital on Saturday, July 26.

The top two regions from the event at the rebranded BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park will progress to finals night at the Twickenham Stoop on Friday, August 8 when they will take on the six English qualifiers.

"The bond between the Premiership Rugby clubs and our friends in the Welsh regions gets stronger every year," said Premiership Rugby chief executive Mark McCafferty.

"I am delighted therefore to confirm that they will take part in the Premiership Rugby 7s. The tournament has grown each year and the participation of the Welsh Regions will take it to a new level."

The competition has been running since 2010 and largely features academy players and specialists in the shortened format.

The three English qualifying events – which pit clubs against near rivals – have already been inked into the diary.

Gloucester host Bath, Exeter and London Irish on Thursday, July 31 and Harlequins, Wasps and Saracens head up the M1 to Northampton the following evening before Newcastle welcome Leicester, Sale and relegated Worcester to Kingston Park on the Saturday.

All the festivals are televised live on BT Sport, whose three-year sponsorship deal with the four Welsh regions worth nearly £5million was confirmed on Monday.

There is set to be an improved link-up between the regions and Wales Sevens next season.

The national side's core players are set to be attached to the quartet to maintain fitness and conditioning in a professional environment.

That already occurs with plenty of the current crop with, for example, Rhys Jones training with the Dragons when not on Sevens duty and playing his club rugby with Cross Keys.