Source: Harlequins

Two-headed Monsters

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Home from Home

More than one PWR club has a Janus-like head, facing two ways.

Gloucester-Hartpury, as their double name hints, will be operating at Kingsholm, Gloucester six times this season, leaving the remaining twelve rounds to the Alpas Stadium back home in Hartpury.

Loughborough Lightning have the longest neck, stretching 50-odd miles south to Franklin’s Gardens, Northampton. They will continue wearing African violet and pink, despite Saints’ traditional green, black and gold. This arrangement saves Northampton the need to establish a women’s club of its own.

Ealing Trailfinders are a different case. They betray strong traces of the deposed Wasps, through their DoR, Giselle Matther, and a large number of players she brought across from Twyford Avenue. By a curious coincidence, Wasps played a single game at Vallis Way in the early days of the Premier 15s League, when they took on Lightning. The experiment wasn’t continued.

The other newcomers to the PWR League, Leicester Tigers, share their famous ground at Welford Road with the men’s club. It is now known as the Mattioli-Woods Stadium. But they are another club to enjoy links with a second club, this time the far distant Lichfield. There are no plans for their PWR games to be located there.

Quins had an operation to lose one of their two heads, They no longer use Surrey Sports Park, outside Guildford, for some of their home games; they stick to The Twickenham Stoop. Yet SSP was home to the pool stages of the 2010 World Cup matches.

Bristol Bears have just one name, but two homes. They started life (in the Premier 15s in 2017) at Shaftesbury Park, home to Dings Crusaders RFC. But they are making increasing use of Bristol City’s football ground at Ashton Gate, on the other side of the city.

Sale Sharks have a different sort of double existence. While the men’s sector uses the AJ Bell Stadium in Barton-upon-Irwell, the women stick to the club’s earlier base, the CorPacq Stadium at Heywood Road in their home town.

Saracens were once the many-headed monster, or rather, the many-homed monster, as Nigel Wray hunted for a suitable home. Their temporary residences included a recreation ground at Bramley Road, Southgate, Watford FC, Enfield FC, (where I once had the pleasure of seeing the great Philippe Sella play). Bramley Road was an interesting venue for what was to become a leading English club. its facillties left them short of fixtures against top opposition.

Worcester Warriors have undergone the most tortuous experiences of all the ten clubs to survive into the new era of PWR rugby. Their men’s team is one of four professional clubs to disappear from view (the others Wasps, London Irish and recently Jersey Reds). By luck, hard work and considerable generosity, the women’s club has survived, so the Sixways Stadium remains in use. Warriors share it with Worcester Raiders FC of the Hellenic League. We can only hope that circumstances allow them to continue to flourish there.

When the women’s section of Exeter Chiefs was established for the start of the 2020-21 season, they were granted a share of the Sandy Park Stadium, used by the men. This was another stadium built on the edge of the city like Sixways. All the Chiefs’ games are hosted there. They remain single-headed.