We’re raring to go: Premier 15s clubs react to start of new season this weekend
Premier 15s clubs have said they are ‘raring to go’ after the Rugby Football Union announced the league’s return-to-play date as this Saturday.
Coaches and players alike have also welcomed the news Allianz are the new title sponsor of the league after Tyrrell’s association ended earlier this year.
This weekend will see the first women’s rugby in England since it was suspended in March and England and Bristol Bears star Amber Reed says she believes support for the league will grow more this season than it has done before.
She said: "I think it’s been no secret that over the last few months Covid and lockdown has definitely had a massive impact on women’s sport, but the news that Allianz has come on board as the league sponsor is really positive.
“Although we have seen a notable difference in women's sport and having stopped the seasons, the news is really positive and definitely a massive step forward for the women’s game. Although we have seen an impact, the positive steps that have now happened will kick start this season and it will definitely grow more than it has done in previous seasons which is a really positive start.”
Wasps Director of Rugby Giselle Mather has said the new title sponsor adds credibility to not only the Premier 15s but the women’s game as a whole.
She added: "I think it's fantastic, I am absolutely thrilled. It's not just any type of sponsor, it's a big big title sponsor isn't it.
“It gives the women’s game the credibility that it thoroughly deserves and allows us to kick off the start of this season with all things in place which is a really good. Fantastic start for all of us.”
With the training protocols that were set in place for clubs due to the pandemic, mainly small group training, a lot of new signings have not been able to meet their team-mates in person.
Bears head coach Kim Oliver has said she expects her side to grow into the league week on week due to the different pre-season they have experienced.
She said: "I think it's going to be tough. This pre-season has been very different to any other pre-season so in terms of actually getting through a lot of team stuff it's been difficult because we've been in small groups.
"However, there have been things that have improved because of the small groups so it has been beneficial in many ways. I don't expect things to be perfect in the first few games but they never are in the beginning of the season.
“We'll always have things to work on but I'm pretty excited to get things going and I think, at the moment, the most important thing is seeing the girls back on the pitch and enjoying themselves and playing a bit of rugby.”
While the girls will be back on the pitch, the game will be different from where they left it earlier in the year.
The RFU have added law variations to prevent the spread of coronavirus, mainly the reduction of scrums, especially as the league will not have testing available to them.
England and Sale Sharks player Katy Daley-Mclean has said it will make the game faster.
She said: "It is very interesting, the big ones for me are the free kick ones. Free kick for forward pass, free kick for knock on. It just changes the speed of the game, I think naturally a knock on happens and you are trying to assess whether an advantage is going to happen, where as now it's about reacting much quicker. Can you get your hands on the ball and what's in front of you?
"If not, defensively making sure you are in a good shape because teams with quick nines, the likes of Mo [Natasha Hunt] at Gloucester, Leanne [Riley at Harlequins] nines like that are going to thrive on that rule. The first round of games are going to be really, really interesting in terms of referee interpretation of how can you get an advantage from say a forward pass and how can you continue the play.
“The game is going to be much quicker, but it's about keeping the integrity of rugby as well. The other thing you don't want to do is to go away from it and it become a variation of rugby league. But like I said I understand the mitigation of risk but it'll be interesting to see how teams react to it and what solutions they come to this problem because it will very different for all teams.”
Daley-Mclean is part of the new Sharks squad who have been put together throughout lockdown after entering the league through a re-tendering process in April.
Head coach Darren Lamon has spoken about what it was like to piece together the squad in such an uncertain time.
He said: "I've found it a bit of a privilege really, I think people could jump on it as being hard. It's been exciting for the club.
"We have definitely got to know the players with the different stages of return to play with small groups, that’s been a real positive from it. A lot of footage from previous Premier 15s has happened as well which has been good for the coaches to get as much info on the women's game as possible.
“It's been enjoyable to be fair, we’re excited about the group, heavily local girls. I think it's a great opportunity, we said from the off we'd go for northern girls as much as we can as well as talented and international girls that are available in the area, so raring to go come Saturday.”