Rachel Malcolm look's ahead to the Tyrrells Premier 15s 2019/20 season

Rachel Malcolm is hoping last season’s play-off heartbreak will serve as a valuable lesson to Loughborough Lightning in this year’s Tyrrells Premier 15s.

The Scotland international’s side went down 26-10 to Harlequins in last season’s semi-finals – a loss that has shaped Loughborough’s preparations for the new campaign.

Just two weeks remain until the season kicks off with Lightning hosting Darlington Mowden Park Sharks, with Malcolm believing her team are better equipped to deal with the adversity.

“I think the big lesson we took from that semi-final defeat was that we probably didn’t play the rugby we wanted to play,” she said, speaking at the season launch at Tyrrells Court Farm.

“A couple of different things happened in that game and it’s about how we deal with those situations going forward.

“We always have quite a clear game plan going into games, so we need to make sure we recognise when things aren’t going our way and reinforce the message we want to get across in that game.

“We need to keep improving this year and go one better - the aim is to come top four but push and get to that final.

“The excitement is really building and the girls are just chomping at the bit to get going now.”

This season marks the third edition of the Tyrrells Premier 15s, a competition continually growing in popularity and offering a strong pathway for players, coaches and referees.

The competition will be played over 18 rounds, culminating on May 30 after nearly nine months of gruelling action.

And Malcolm believes this year’s campaign is likely to be the most competitive - and unpredictable - ever since its inception in 2016.

“This season will absolutely be the most competitive as every team is really pushing in terms of their staff, facilities, preparation and training,” she said.

“You can see from the recruitment from both around England and also in other countries that all teams are pushing to be the best they can be.

“I have no idea who will win it - obviously we hope it’s us but it’s really up in the air and it’s really exciting.”

The Lightning captain was also in buoyant spirits about the direction her sport was heading in, with the visibility of the Tyrrells Premier 15s continuing to grow year on year.

In light of the success enjoyed by the FA Women’s Super League – in which almost 63,000 fans attended matches on the opening weekend – Malcolm believes such a feat is something rugby can look to replicate.

“Football is a sport women have played for a lot longer in terms of numbers, but we’ve seen a huge increase in the number of girls playing rugby now,” she said.

“We’ve got to keep that going and keep inspiring them to take it up, but we’re definitely moving in the right direction.

“In years to come we want to have the numbers so it becomes more and more competitive and we have that attention from people to come and watch us as well.”

Tyrrells Premier 15s is the top-flight women’s domestic rugby union competition in England. For all the latest news from Tyrrells Premier 15s, you can follow @Premier15s on Twitter

By Will Jennings, Sportsbeat