Domestic weekend preview as Gloucester-Hartpury march on

Zoe Aldcroft 3/4/2021
50 days remain until the beginning of the 2023 TikTok Women’s Six Nations and players across Europe’s domestic leagues are eager to impress.

50 days remain until the beginning of the 2023 TikTok Women’s Six Nations and players across Europe’s domestic leagues are eager to impress.

At the halfway stage of the Allianz Premier 15s season, all eyes are on Gloucester-Hartpury to see if they will blink, while Blagnac continue their quest to go one better than last season in the Elite 1.

Likewise, Valsugana Padova are the team to beat in the Eccellenza Femminile, and another Celtic Challenge clash pits the Combined Provinces against the Thistles in Belfast.

Who can stop Gloucester-Hartpury?

If Gloucester-Hartpury complete the double over Bristol Bears on Saturday, they will have already won more matches than the whole of their last campaign.

The league leaders’ 100% record came under threat a fortnight ago against Harlequins, but a resounding 41-7 victory over Sale Sharks was the perfect response from Susie Appleby’s side.

The match will be streamed live on BBC Sport, before fans can catch Sale Sharks take on University of Worcester Warriors in an unpredictable encounter with the two sides having identical records this season – won four, lost four.

Earlier on Saturday, England and Scotland stars Claudia MacDonald and Eilidh Sinclair will hope to continue their try-scoring prowess when Exeter Chiefs play against DMP Sharks, with both on the scoresheet in their 84-0 win over Wasps.

The reigning champions are Wasps’ challengers this weekend, as fourth-place Saracens look to build on a five-try bonus point victory against Bristol last Saturday.

The Women in Black can call on a raft of internationals, with Jess Breach and Zoe Harrison both impressing in Round 9.

Celtic Challenge set for another tight tussle

The inaugural Celtic Challenge Tournament is also reaching the midway point, with the Combined Provinces XV set to host the Thistles as TikTok Women’s Six Nations selectors cast a keen eye over proceedings.

Ireland internationals Leah Tarpey, Molly Scuffil-McCabe and Linda Djougang all come into Greg McWilliams’ starting XV, following their nail-biting one-point victory over WRU Development XV in Cardiff.

Interpros champions Claire Bennett, Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird and Maeve Og O’Leary also start against the Thistles who can count themselves unfortunate to lose by a two-point margin in their opener against WRU Development XV.

Edinburgh University winger Meryl Smith is set to captain the side once more, with talented youngster Emma Orr also in line to feature.

Unbeaten Blagnac to extend commanding lead

At the top of France’s Elite Feminine 1 Pool B, Blagnac are racing ahead in the battle for the playoffs, utilising a squad packed with nine contracted French internationals to win every match so far.

Emilie Boulard and Gabrielle Vernier will come up against third-place Stade Villeneuvois on Sunday afternoon, while Grenoble travel to Romagnat the day before hoping to keep up the pressure.

Pool 2 is more evenly poised with just two points separating leaders Stade Bordelais and chasers Montpellier who entertain Stade Rennais and Chilly-Mazarin respectively.

Champions Toulouse, meanwhile, face off against Pau, as French stars Pauline Bourdon, Maelle Filopon and Gaelle Hermet try to make up lost ground having won just twice to sit joint fourth.

Colorno in tough test after emphatic win

Colorno are in for a tougher test this weekend after their 102-0 win over Parabiago at the end of January.

Captain Veronica Madia leads her team to Turin for their Round 9 meeting to face a CUS Torino side with four wins and four losses to their name.

Leaders Valsugana Padova have made fine use of the abundance of Italian internationals in their squad this season, and are expected to make it nine from nine victories at Parabiago.

Elsewhere, third plays fourth in Rome on Sunday, with Capitolina and recently-retired Sara Barattin’s Arredissima Villorba battling it out to stay in touching distance with the top two.