13 November 2019

Red Roses and Harlequins star Leanne Riley says Leinster match at Twickenham will 'take women's rugby up a notch'

Red Roses and Harlequins scrum-half Leanne Riley has spoken about her club side's clash with Leinster in December.

It was announced last week that the two sides will be playing each other for the first time and will also be the first women's club game to ever be played at Twickenham.

The game is a double header with the Harlequins men's annual 'Big Game' event.

Riley told NewsChain: "It's a massive occasion, we started our own version of the Big Game in March so to be a part of the men's game as well is amazing, it was very unexpected. 

"To play an overseas team as well, it's something we've never done. We are massively looking forward to having Leinster come over and a Harlequins shirt at Twickenham stadium is something no-one has experienced.

"There will be players in the team, that don't play international rugby, who work full-time that will get that opportunity. The occasion itself is huge and hopefully it's one the club can build on in terms of getting bigger clubs across to us.

"It's good for the women's game, it's just going to take it up a notch. We're always looking for how to improve the game and I think this is one of those stepping stones to be able to achieve that."

Leanne Riley (back right) has played for Harlequins since 2017 (PA Images)

Quins are currently top of the Premier 15s table and are unbeaten so far this season. 

However, despite the English domestic league being established in 2017, there is currently no European tournament in women's rugby, something Riley believes there is an 'opportunity' to develop.

Riley added: "I think it's [European league] in the pipeline, it's something they should be looking at. There is an opportunity to go into that European league, it's just making sure it's right for us at that time.

"Whether that fits into the premiership and the fixtures can merge into one, following how the men's game does it. At the moment the Premier 15s has an international break and does that change to fit in European games? That would have to be figured out but there is an opportunity to go into it."

The 26-year-old is currently playing in England's autumn internationals and was a part of the side that beat France 20-10 at the Stade Marcel Michelin on Saturday.

And while their performance was impressive, Riley reiterates the need to continue to improve if they are going to beat France for a second time this weekend at Sandy Park.

"I think our physicality needs to be stepped up a level, as a nine the clean out ball at the ruck wasn't the best for me. So we definitely have to be a bit tighter there," she said.

"I think our handling around the middle of the pitch has to be better. I know we let a few opportunities go because the ball didn't go to hand. 

"We're looking at being able to build pressure, we struggled to build phases in the first 20 minutes [last weekend] so it's about building that pressure and how we execute it."

The Red Roses broke the record for the highest attendance at a Women's Six Nations match on their last visit to Sandy Park when 10,545 fans watched them beat Italy.

As a result, Riley is excited to return to the Exeter Chiefs' stadium as they bid to secure successive victories over the French.

Riley said: "I think I speak for a lot of the girls when I say we're looking forward to going back and hopefully getting a sell out crowd. 

"It'll be really nice to have that 16th person on the pitch and to hear them!"

England vs France kicks off at 1:10pm on Saturday and will be available to watch on Sky Sports.

The best videos delivered daily

Watch the stories that matter, right from your inbox