Fixtures announced for the new season of Allianz Premiership Women's Rugby
A NEW ERA for women's rugby in England kicks off this Autumn with confirmation of the fixtures for the Allianz Premiership Women's Rugby competition.
Contested by ten teams there are two new sides in the league, with the arrival of Leicester Tigers and Trailfinders Women in the elite division of English women's rugby.
Trailfinders Women begin life in newly formed Allianz Premiership Women's Rugby with a mouth-watering London derby, Harlequins making the short trip to Ealing on the opening weekend of 17-19 November. While Tigers also start at home to last season's runners-up, Exeter Chiefs.
Allianz Premiership Women's Rugby Round One
Weekend of 17-19 November
Bristol Bears v Sale Sharks
Leicester Tigers v Exeter Chiefs
Saracens v Loughborough Lightning
Trailfinders Women v Harlequins
Warriors Women v Gloucester-Hartpury
Trailfinders Women are led by Giselle Mather, one of the most experienced coaches in world rugby, with more than 20 years of guiding teams to the top. "The new league campaign is hugely exciting for us," said Mather who won the Rugby World Cup as a player with England in 1994.
"The women’s game at the moment is in a fantastic space and the club’s commitment to it is immense, so the opportunity to lead this programme is really exciting.
"The big thing for us is that everything is new - it's everything from the bibs and the balls to the players, staff, environment and league.
"As a coach, it's an unbelievably unique opportunity because you’re not inheriting anything you are creating. I enjoy creating and looking at building a high-performance environment from nothing. But can do it with fabulous facilities at the club, and we have the most extraordinary support from Trailfinders."
Trailfinders Women have targeted a big crowd for that first game - which will be a memorable day in the club's history, showing how far the women's game has come in a relatively short time. Mather adds: "Two London teams going against together, hopefully from a commercial point of view we'll have a big crowd, as we’ve set a target of 2,000 at our first game."
Mather coached Leicester Tigers head coach, Vicky Macqueen, when she was a pacy full-back and now the two women come head-to-head in Allianz Premiership Women's Rugby.
Macqueen expressed the genuine elation surrounding women's sport at the moment saying: "It's really exciting. I know I keep saying that, but I think it sums up what everyone is thinking and feeling. We know we’re going to be judged and looked at, but we’re excited about that."
Neither Mather nor Macqueen will be content with making up the numbers and Macqueen adds: "We want to make a statement in year one but know there is a lot of experience in this league. We will focus on what we do best, use our superpowers, and think about our strengths. It’s the mentality we have."
Off the field Tigers have confirmed some more great news for the fledgling women's club, Macqueen adding: "We have sold almost 5,000 season tickets ahead of the new season, over double our target for our first season in the elite level of women’s rugby which is magnificent support from the Tigers fans.
"Having welcomed the Red Roses to Mattioli Woods Welford Road in the 2022 Six Nations, we’re delighted to bring Premiership Women’s Rugby to our famous stadium and to supporters who are excited about the best competition in women’s rugby. "
The summer has featured dozens of new signings into Allianz Premiership Women's Rugby - use the link below to see five of the most eye-catching signings:
Holders Gloucester-Hartpury kick off the defence of their title with a short trip to Sixways where Warriors Women lie in wait. Last June, Sean Lynn's side beat Exeter Chiefs 34-19 in an unforgettable final at 'Queensholm', in front of almost 10,000 fans, so will be focused on a positive start this time around.
Lynn said: "Winning the title last season was huge for this Club. It was a day none of us will ever forget, not just for winning the trophy, but because of the incredible support for the women’s game at ‘Queensholm’.
“Our ambition now is to keep that trophy in our cabinet. We have retained every player that started in the final and secured some brilliant new additions in Elizabeth Shermer, Trudy Cowan, Cath Richards, Carmen Castellucci and Mackenzie Carson. If we can build on last season, particularly the team unity which I hope has become synonymous with this team, we’ll be in a strong position come the business end of the season.”
Ashton Gate will be the scene for Bristol Bears' clash with Sale Sharks while Loughborough Lightning make the trip to north London to face 2022 winners Saracens on the opening weekend.
Carolyn Rich, head of brand marketing and social responsibility at Allianz said:
"After three years of sponsoring the Allianz Premier 15s we are excited to see how the Allianz Premiership Women's Rugby will reach new audiences and grow the game.
"It's a really promising time for women's sport, especially rugby, and we are proud to be part of it. We are particularly looking forward to the start of the new season and to welcoming the new clubs to the competition."
The Allianz Premiership Women's Rugby semi-finals will take place on the weekend of 7-9 June with the final two weeks later on 22 June.
The elite women's rugby season in England will kick off in September with the Allianz Cup. The cup fixtures will be announced at 2pm on Wednesday 9 August.
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