Here’s the lowdown on the ten clubs competing in the English women’s top flight for the 2020-21 season
Allianz Premier 15s team-by-team guide
There hasn’t been a Premier 15s game for eight months but the English women’s top flight returns this weekend and will feature new clubs, players and coaches.
Here’s your Allianz Premier 15s team-by-team guide for the 2020-21 season…
Kim Oliver’s squad already had a strong Welsh flavour with the likes of Wales captain Siwan Lillicrap, fly-half Elinor Snowsill and scrum-half Keira Bevan involved.
That has been further emphasised with the addition of more Wales internationals in Jasmine Joyce, Alisha Butchers, Kayleigh Powell, Natalia John and Courtney Keight over the off-season. The re-signing of Red Roses Amber Reed and Sarah Bern is also key.
Inconsistency has resulted in mid-table finishes thus far but with international pedigree throughout the side, the play-offs will be in their sights.
DMP Durham Sharks
Darlington Mowden Park have paired up with Durham University for the second Premier 15s cycle, hence the amended name. The partnership allows players to access the Sports and Wellbeing Park facilities, as well as the university’s medical, S&C and performance staff.
Sharks have lost experience in the shape of RWC 2014 winner Tamara Taylor and England hooker Heather Kerr, so will hope fresh faces promoted from the development squad can impress under a new coaching team headed up by Gordon Brett and Stuart Dixon.
One of two new teams in the division, the Chiefs are coached by former England internationals Susie Appleby and Amy Garnett – and have built a multicultural squad for their first season.
Spain’s Patricia Garcia and Laura Delgado, as well as Netherlands back-row Linde van der Velden, are notable European recruits, while USA captain Kate Zackary and Canada prop Olivia DeMerchant are among those who have arrived from North America.
That experience on the world stage is complemented by young, local talent.
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Sean Lynn, who took over from Susie Appleby at the turn of the year, has added Test quality at lock in Sarah Bonar (Scotland) and Gwen Crabb (Wales). Other international signings include Cara Hope, Kerin Lake and Robyn Lock.
England players Zoe Aldcroft, Tatyana Heard, Natasha Hunt, Kelly Smith, Mia Venner and Millie Wood have all committed to the club too.
Gloucester have always been in the play-off mix, so will aim to maintain their upper-table status. But they may find life more competitive this season.
With Gary Street taking on a role in the men’s academy, Gerard Mullen has come in as head coach from Loughborough University. Karen Findlay, who was co-head coach with Street, has switched to forwards coach – easier to balance alongside her job with the Met Police.
Quins will be without locks Deborah McCormack and Zoe Saynor (both retired) and Italy back-row Giada Franco (returned home) as they bid for the title after losing to Saracens in the previous two finals. But they have retained their impressive England contingent and brought in sevens player Beth Wilcock.
Lightning have lost Katy Daley-Mclean to Sale, as well as Test forwards Sarah Bonar, Jo Brown and Emily Tuttosi. However, they still have England stars Sarah Hunter and Emily Scarratt on their books as they look to continue their steady improvement in the league.
They have also been bolstered by Canada back-row Courtney Holtkamp, Ireland hooker Gill Bourke and England Sevens players Abbie Brown and Helena Rowland.
Sale are the other new team in the English women’s top flight and they’ve brought in a host of internationals, the foremost of which is England fly-half Katy Daley-Mclean. She has joined as player-coach and will work alongside head of women’s rugby Darren Lamon.
Lauren Delany (Ireland), Jodie Ounsley (England Sevens), Mhairi Grieve (Scotland) and Lisa Neumann (Wales) are among the club’s international signings. Plus, there are promising youngsters like Scarlett Fielding and Alicia Calton in the ranks.
Sitting unbeaten at the top of the league, Saracens looked primed to make it a hat-trick of Premier 15s trophies until last season was cancelled due to Covid-19.
Captain Lotte Clapp has familiar faces alongside her for another title bid. Like Quins, they have a number of England stars – Hannah Botterman, Bryony Cleall, Poppy Cleall, Vicky Fleetwood, Zoe Harrison, Sarah McKenna and Marlie Packer – and have added a trio of sevens internationals in Holly Aitchison, Deborah Fleming and Sydney Gregson.
Plus, Test centurion Tamara Taylor has joined as a player-coach.
There has been an influx of England Sevens players at Wasps, with Abby Burton, Megan Jones, Ellie Kildunne, Celia Quansah and Amy Wilson Hardy bolstering their attacking options even after Danielle Waterman’s retirement.
Other new faces include internationals Rowena Burnfield, Ciara Cooney, Heather Kerr and Carys Williams. Lizzie Goulden has joined Lightning so Jones, Flo Williams and Hannah Edwards will compete for the No 10 jersey.
The Warriors have struggled since the inception of the Premier 15s but there have been clear signs of progress under DoR Jo Yapp. Eighth when the 2019-20 campaign came to its premature end, they had won more matches (three) than in the previous two seasons combined.
The addition of England back-rowers Jo Brown, Heather Fisher and Alex Matthews is a fillip, while Liz Shermer, Players’ Player of the Year for 2019-20, and Tamzin Bricknell are highly rated.
This article originally appeared in the November 2020 edition of Rugby World magazine.
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