Source: Harlequins

How does the PWR look from here?

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Now that Matt Merritt has been kind enough to post ( all the moves of PWR players to date (14-11-23), I’ve taken the reckless step of picking out the signings I see as most significant for the clubs concerned:

Bristol Bears: Hannah Botterman, Holly Aitchison
Exeter Chiefs: Alex Tessier, Harriet Millar-Mills
Gloucester-Hartpury: Mackenzie Carson
Harlequins: Aseza Hele, Connie Powell, Shaunagh Brown (returning)
Leicester Tigers: Amy Cokayne, Francesca McGhie, Meg Jones
Sale Sharks: Beatrice Rigoni, Morwenna Talling
Saracens: Rosie Galligan
Trailfinders Women: Abby Dow, Kate Zackary, Tyson Beukeboom

I did say ‘reckless’! So many familiar names omitted, one or two less well known included. It remains to be seen how badly judged this choice was.

Points of interest

The number of gains and losses is intriguing in itself. Bears and Quins have shed eleven players each. That’s a lot, and Quins’ list includes two contracted Red Roses.

Matt’s list is proof, if proof were needed, that not even the strongest clubs can be sure of retaining their most prized members. Sarries are an obvious case, losing three current Red Roses and a leading GB 7s player.

Lightning fans will have noticed that they are completely absent from the list. It reflects my growing concern about their future. Though they have moved into the warm embrace of Northampton Saints, it was not enough to provide them with a few star players to replace the nine who have left. Contrast that with the generosity of Gloucester in strengthening Glos-Pury’s squad so well that they walked off with the trophy last season. Did Lightning not ask for additions to the squad? Did Saints not suggest the possibility, or did someone give a firm no?

Worcester Warriors players have followed the painful trail of Wasps in finding another club to join. Inevitably, not all have. Cara Brincat signed on at Trailfinders at the start of November; Akina Gondwe had to wait three weeks to switch from a loan transfer at Sarries to full-time. It can be a slow and sometimes fruitless business. Attractive alternatives in the game beyond PWR are few.

The W15s board has several issues it will be monitoring across the season. Among them is the maximum number of players allocated to each club. Three years ago it was reduced to forty. This year we will see how many games each player will be able to enjoy. With the number of overseas (NEQPs) players now limited, will some of them decide it’s hardly worth staying on another year?

At present that seems highly unlikely, simply because the quality of PWR rugby is so much higher than anything they could expect at home. That is where World Rugby has one its greatest challenges: to help establish home leagues of true worth.