On Saturday the opening round of the third season on the Premier 15s kicks off. All ten clubs know how much hangs from their performances through the season.
The four who finish bottom will face the agony of coming under surveillance by a panel, to test whether other clubs – either from lower divisions or not yet established – are deemed worthy of taking their place for the following year.
Bristol Bears v Saracens
Firwood Waterloo v Gloucester-Hartpury
Harlequins v Richmond
Loughborough Lightning v DMP Sharks
Wasps v Worcester Warriors
During the closed season all the trends have favoured the leading three clubs, Sarries, Quins and Lightning. They have been taking star players on board by the dozen. The latest acquisitions include Jade Wong, the Ireland 7s international, and Rachel Laqeretabua who move from Richmond to Sarries; and Detysha Harper (England U20 prop) from Waterloo to Lightning. But they are also wise to introduce youngsters from the centres of excellence and elsewhere.
Other clubs have been busy in the market: Bristol have signed on no fewer than four Welsh internationals, Keira Bevan, Siwan Lillicrap, Manon Johnes and Lauran Smyth.
The much travelled New Zealander, Ti Tauasosi, who has represented Singapore, has signed for Glos-Pury. She admits she is glad to get back to 15s. She has ‘had enough of Sevens.’
There are at least four new club captains: Mo Hunt at Glos-Pury; Hannah Field at Richmond, Lyndsay O’Donnell at Worcester and the Canadian, Mackenzie Thomas, at Sharks. We wish them all good hunting.
Among new head coaches announced is Mike Panoho at Richmond. Excellent news for DMP Sharks: Tamara Taylor will continue playing for them and will take on the role of Co-Head Coach. Justin Loveridge has acquired the title of Head of Programmes
Of the four clubs at the bottom of the league table, Firwood Waterloo look to be in the direst position. They have lost two of their leading performers, Sarah Beckett (to Quins) and Georgie Perris-Redding to Warriors.
Richmond must hope their new intake can advance their cause, but Ellie Boatman from Sarries, Emma Ljungblom (Uppsala and Sweden), Rebecca Scorah (Aylesford) and Sadia Kabeya (originally from Streatham via England U18s 7s), still have to make their name.
By contrast, DMP Sharks and Worcester Warriors have a good chance of putting the worrying times behind them. Both have gained large numbers of talented players, including several internationals.
Losing can become a habit. That’s why the early rounds of the Tyrrells will prove so important.
Gloucester-Hartpury have just announced the signing of Lleucu George, the young Welsh international. How many Welsh caps are left inside the Principality?
Wasps announce the late signing of Edel McMahon, the Irish international and Barbarian. Isabel Rico, Spanish captain and Barbarian, returns to Twyford Avenue as well.
But their great news is the return to action of Harriet Millar-Mills after a two-year absence. She’ll play at No 8 alongside Claire Molloy.
PS Rocky Clark is on the Sarries’ bench. She hasn’t retired!
Just for the record, here are last season’s contracted Red Roses who will not be appearing in Round One:
But last season’s contracts are now a thing of the past.