Women's rugby is thriving but is it missing a trick? England's dominance over their fellow home nations gives rises to this debate, first published in our April 2022 issue
Face-off: Should Celtic club teams join the Premier 15s?
YES, says the director of the documentary No Woman, No Try
I certainly think the idea of having other home nations clubs in the Allianz Premier 15s is interesting. It hasn’t been done for the men but what works for them doesn’t necessarily have to work for women, and now seems as good a time as any to learn and adapt.
It’s amazing to see the Red Roses so far out in front in international rugby. Having a strong Premier 15s contributes to that but they have no real competition among the other home nations. It would be great to see more top-tier teams supporting those around them; for instance, having a professional 15s league including Wales, Scotland or Ireland club teams.
In my experience, a lot of people argue that women’s rugby isn’t interesting because there isn’t enough competition; we should use this as an opportunity to change that by investing in clubs, as well as making it a different production to the men’s Premiership. It would help us grow the game and create a more competitive sport that people want to watch.
Related content: No Woman, No Try – review and how to watch
At this stage I don’t see any harm in having other clubs involved. The Premier 15s is already full of international players from across the world, including the USA, Japan and South Africa to name a few. The depth of talent is developing in England and going home to create better Test teams who can come through and hopefully challenge the Red Roses in the future.
Why not contribute to that by having other teams from the home nations involved in creating a better women’s rugby environment for all of us?
NO, says the writer/blogger who specialises in women’s rugby
The women’s game in England has flourished at the elite level because of the investment the union has put into it, not just through player contracts for internationals but also through the Allianz Premier 15s.
The league isn’t perfect; it has seen growth year on year both in audience figures and in the quality of rugby, but the gap between the likes of current champions Harlequins and teams such as DMP Durham Sharks keeps getting bigger.
Why then would the RFU be interested in admitting teams for rival unions to develop their own players? Adding Jaguares-style squads who are national teams in all but name, and face punishing travel schedules, wouldn’t exactly set the league on fire. The SRU, WRU and IRFU shouldn’t be keen to have their teams in a league they have no control over either.
Expansion of the Premier 15s is inevitable, though. Loughborough Lightning have formed links to Northampton Saints, Leicester Tigers are working with Lichfield, and both London Irish and Bath have made their intent to field an elite women’s team clear.
If the Celtic unions really want in on the Premier 15s, building bridges to these teams would seem a sound bet. Bristol and Gloucester-Hartpury already have a strong Welsh contingent.
Better still would be a Celtic women’s league allowing these teams to have regular access to strong competition. And if they really want to measure themselves against the best the Premier 15s have to offer, then a British & Irish Cup could be an option for the future.
Face-off: Should Celtic club teams join the Premier 15s? We want to know what YOU think. Email your views to rugbyworldletters@futurenet
This debate first appeared in the April 2022 issue of Rugby World.