I was kindly invited to attend the media launch of The Inaugural Tyrrell’s Premier 15s League at Twickenham – thank you Suzi Murray … and so I went!
It was a day of ‘firsts’ for me and I have to say, I was a teeny bit proud of how far RuckinRugby, and in particular – this project – had come from such meagre beginnings. It was the first time I had been to Twickenham on a non-game day. The first time I had been invited anywhere as part of the Women’s Elite Rugby Website, and the first time I’d almost met Sarah Hunter … Doh!
I was feeling a bit like a fish out of water, so was very happy to spot Laura Eddie from Saracens – a face I knew! And the seal was broken. I had an interesting chat with a chap called John from the BBC – who I filled in on all my annoyances at Lichfield’s exclusion (before he’d mentioned he was from the BBC….!) I had a really interesting rugby chat with Gary Street (were your ears burning Nolli?) about last year’s Premiership final, the WRWC and how he coped with pre-season despite half his squad being missing. He is a really interesting chap – as I guessed he would be – and I could have listened to him for ages.
Anyway. Once I’d recovered from Nigel Melville sneerily announcing that this was the ‘first ever proper competition for women’s rugby’ … and that next week he’d be going live with the ‘first ever website dedicated to women’s club rugby’ (annnnnnnnd breeeeathe) … it was an enjoyable event. Kat Merchant managed it beautifully, despite a few fish-out-of-water nerves of her own. And of course, Sarah Hunter (in ‘Lightning’ livery!) was as engaging as always with that smile and her obvious passion and positive attitude for the game.
Suzi and I agreed that we would share the love and work together – so let’s get on with the rugby now. Here’s the official press release from the RFU:
The inaugural Tyrrells Premier 15s season launched today with all 10 club captains, coaches and club directors of rugby attending an event at Twickenham Stadium.
The new women’s 15s domestic competition will see an investment of £2.4million from the RFU over the next three years with clubs benefitting directly. The competition is expected to improve standards of the women’s game, as well as increase the talent pool available for selection for England in the future.
The event previewed the up-coming season of the competition which starts on the 16th September and saw England Women’s captain Sarah Hunter, Wasps Director of Rugby, Giselle Mather and Nigel Melville discuss how the new competition will revolutionise the existing landscape of women’s domestic rugby.
Nigel Melville, RFU Director of Professional Rugby said: “It’s about raising the standard of the game and giving the athletes and clubs the support they need to be better. There was a gap between our club game and our international game so we wanted to put in a place a competition that was aspirational for younger players. We hope to double the number women and girls playing the game over the next four years to 50,000 players and a lot of them will want to participate in this league. This will help create better players.”
England Women captain and newly appointed Loughborough Lightning assistant coach and player Sarah Hunter said “The new Tyrrells Premier 15s is where the game needs to be in terms of professionalism, high-quality coaching as well as support from strength and conditioning as well as medical teams. The league has been crying out for this for years and for the RFU to come in and transform it is fantastic. It’s great to be involved in it on and off the pitch.”
Wasps Director of Rugby, Giselle Mather said: “I can already see the difference the increase investment is having at my club. The athletes are really excited, there is a huge buzz about the place. We have an strength and conditioning department now, the medical team has improved and everything is there for them because of the sponsorship we have got. The excitement is palpable. We can’t wait until the 16th for the competition to begin”
Alongside the multi-million pound commitment from the RFU, title partner Tyrrells will also invest significantly into the competition bringing the partnership to life as part of on-pack promotions over the next three years.
A new website, Premier15s.com will officially launch ahead of the first weekend of fixtures in September.
In addition, the RFU has committed to live stream a minimum of five games across the season, hosted on the new website along with the new dedicated Twitter handle @Premier15s to promote the competition.
Tyrrells Premier 15s will operate in a league format with home and away fixtures confirmed today. The top four teams will progress to semi-finals played over two legs, culminating in a final on the 29th April.