Premier 15s signings round up… So far!
Four months since the country went into lockdown, a little longer than that since we last saw rugby played on this side of the globe and we might, if we’re lucky, get some news about the (now Tyrrells free) Premier 15s in August! In the meantime, some clubs have been busy adding to their squads so that they’ll be ready when next season finally kicks off.
Early in April the results of the tenders for league membership were confirmed and we discovered the landscape for the forthcoming season will be quite different We say goodbye to Firwood Waterloo and Richmond Women who have been replaced by women’s teams launched by Sale Sharks and Exeter Chiefs.
With two new squads to be built we were excited to see who would land where and Sale Sharks Women kicked things off with a BIG announcement. Securing Katy Daley-Mclean (we wrote about that here) was a huge statement of intent and they’ve followed it up with a range of signings since. Whether it has been young talent from the north west, promising young Welsh players or established internationals like Lisa Neumann (Wales) and Jess Wooden (USA). They’ve not been shy in grabbing a few recognisable faces from the Prem 15s either, Georgie Perris-Redding is a great pick up and with her day job as part of the Sharks community team she will understand the identity of the club better than anyone in the dressing room.
Perhaps Sale’s best signing came this week though when they announced Jodie Ounsley would be joining them. A hugely inspiring young lady who hasn’t let being profoundly deaf hold back her career, she is also one of the more exciting players in the England 7s set up. With 7s contracts at risk given the financial situation at the RFU Ounsley may be the first in a number of players heading back to the 15s form of the game. Ellie Kildunne and Amy Wilson Hardy have both spent time in the Red Roses set up previously and could well be tempted back.
Over in the Gloucester-Hartpury camp they’ve added to their already impressive second row options with the acquisitions of Sarah Bonar and Gwen Crabb but more importantly they’ve locked down their core with the re-signing of a number of their established internationals. Wales women stars like Shona Powell-Hughes to a plethora of England Women players including established international regulars Zoe Aldcroft, Kelly Smith and Natasha Hunt. They also confirmed exciting young outside back Mia Venner will return after getting selected in Simon Middleton’s most recent lineup.
Worcester Warriors Women have been busy building a team to carry on the form they were finding before the league shut down. Jo Yapp has done impressive work at Worcester and after locking down key players including Lydia Thompson, Sioned Harries, Laura Keates and captain Lyndsey O’Donnell. Young talent has been persuaded to stick around too with the likes of Meg Varley and Brooke Bradley also committing to the plan. Yapp has looked for some canny signings to augment the existing team. England u20s prop Flo Long, back row Jo Brown and Barbarians lock Amelia Buckland Hurry will all bring something fresh to the team.
While Buckland Hurry and Long chose to leave Bristol for Worcester, the Bears haven’t been shy in recruiting players. Their Welsh contingent have largely been locked down to new deals, including half back pairing Elinor Snowsill and Keira Bevan. Sarah Bern, Amber Reed andthe consistently excellent Clara Nielson are among others who have committed to the Bristol Bears Women plan. They’ll be augmented with a handful of new additions including Lauren Delany, Alisha Butchers and the lightning quick Jasmine Joyce, an addition that will have opposition players on their toes whenever they travel to the west country.
Elsewhere it has largely been quiet, with two thirds of the league yet to confirm any details of their squad for next season. You’d imagine Saracens and Harlequins will have no trouble retaining their core players, though the aftermath of Covid 19 may see some foreign imports choosing to stay closer to home (though I hope Giada Franco returns, her energy and work ethic make her a favourite of mine to watch during games).
Down in Exeter it’s all been very quiet… Trying to work out what their squad looks like has been fascinating, with no announcements we won’t commit to anything here, though there are a couple of names we’ve heard linked already.
Once we know more about the league’s plans for restarting, I suspect we will see updates from the rest of the league on where their recruitment stands. There’s also the question of what will happen with the talent at Waterloo and Richmond, while some will choose to stay with their clubs and a number of Firwood players have already joined up with Sale, the likes of Ellie Boatman and Sadia Kabeya should be high on every clubs wish list!