The eight clubs selected at this stage, following a competitive tender process which saw strong proposals submitted, are:
- Loughborough Lightning/Northampton Saints
- Bristol Bears Women
- Ealing Trailfinders Women
- Exeter Rugby Club
- Gloucester-Hartpury Women’s RFC
- Harlequins FC
- Leicester Tigers
The league has capacity for ten teams and while a number of clubs have not been selected to enter at this stage, there is potential for clubs to join the league at a later stage. The RFU and Women’s Premier 15 Ltd (WP15) will continue to work with these clubs on their potential to participate in the league.
The selection panel also made a strong recommendation for the RFU and WP15 to explore how greater geographical spread can be provided in the league. This process will begin in January when discussions with clubs and institutions will take place and will form part of the RFU’s wider review of the women’s competition structure in England.
Rhys Edwards, Director of Rugby, at Loughborough University said: “We’re understandably delighted with today’s announcement. We take immense pride in developing athletes through the Loughborough sporting ecosystem and the Allianz Premier 15s provides the perfect platform for our players to flourish.
“Our partnership with Northampton Saints continues to evolve and we’re all looking forward to creating yet more memorable moments together.”
“We’re absolutely delighted with today’s announcement,” added Mark Darbon, Chief Executive at Northampton Saints. “Since we first joined forces in September last year, our partnership with Loughborough Lightning has continued to go from strength to strength, and we look forward to being part of the most competitive, progressive and sustainable women’s competition in the world.”
The RFU, as part of the women’s competition review, has been working for the past six months to develop a solution for those clubs that have not been offered a place at this stage and those that wish to join Premier 15s in the future, now it knows who has been impacted it will move forward with the final stage of that work. The RFU will be working with clubs to consult on and discuss options in the New Year.
Clubs that have not been offered a place in next season’s Allianz Premier 15s can appeal and this process will aim to conclude by the end of February.
Alex Teasdale, RFU Women’s Game Director said: “I would like to thank all the clubs currently in the the Allianz Premier 15s competition for their part in developing it into the success it is today. Their contribution has been invaluable, and the league has set standards around the world for the women’s game.
“We had a good range of clubs and institutions submit proposals and we would like to thank them for all the hard work, time and energy they put into the tender process.”
Charlie Hayter, RFU Women’s Rugby Performance Manager, said: “This process is part of the 10-year strategy for the Premier 15s which aims to build on the current league’s success and continue to push the league forward as the most competitive, progressive and sustainable in the world. We want to create a league which inspires both players, and fans, and continues to develop talented athletes at the elite level.
“This will happen concurrently with work on the wider women and girl’s plan to accelerate the growth of the women’s game in this country.”