Momentum key for Women’s Six Nations stars in domestic leagues

International heavyweights are preparing for another action-packed weekend in the domestic leagues, with plenty of Women’s Six Nations stars in action.

International heavyweights are preparing for another action-packed weekend in the domestic leagues, with plenty of Women’s Six Nations stars in action.

The Tyrrells Premier 15s is now in full swing as defending champions Saracens look to continue their winning start, while the revamped Wales Women’s Regional Championship heads into Round 2.

And while the Irish Women’s Interprovincial Series came to a thrilling conclusion last weekend, the IRFU are hosting a Women’s Emerging Talent Day for up-and-coming talents on Saturday.

Hunter looks for birthday treat

England captain Sarah Hunter will be looking to top off a week of birthday celebrations by guiding her Loughborough Lightning side to victory against Harlequins Ladies.

The Loughborough player-coach turned 33 on Wednesday – in the same week the RFU announced it would be introducing full-time 15s contracts for 28 England Women players.

Currently sitting second in the table, with two wins from two, Hunter will lead Lightning out when they welcome Harlequins to Loughborough University.

Loughborough head coach Rhys Edwards said: “Going into this weekend against Harlequins is another opportunity to keep building momentum after a strong start to the season.

“This weekend sees us play one of the top teams in the competition, so is a chance to really test ourselves under a bit more pressure and keep our home record strong.”

Harlequins are also unbeaten so far this season, with one win and a draw to their name, and England international Rachael Burford will hope she can get one over on her opposite number.

Karen Findlay, Harlequins head coach, said: “Loughborough are a strong side and we have a lot of respect for what they are doing there – but we are confident that if we display the effort, character and belief that we have shown in training this week we can come away with a win.”

Saracens have ‘lots to learn’

It says everything you need to know about the culture at Saracens that head coach Alex Austerberry was not satisfied despite watching his side record a bonus-point win over Worcester Valkyries last week.

The reigning champions have made the perfect start to their title defence, with two bonus-point victories already in the bag, but Austerberry has asked for more from his players.

Scotland international Jodie Rettie is among the five changes he has made to the side for the trip north to face Darlington Mowden Park Sharks, who lost to Gloucester-Hartpury last time out.

“The game is a chance to show our learning and what we’re capable of as a group,” Austerberry said. “We are looking forward to the challenge that DMP will lay down this weekend.

“We don’t feel we have put in a performance that truly reflects what we are capable of and we know that our standards will have to improve if we are to put in a performance we can be proud of.”

Meanwhile, Richmond are searching for their first win against Worcester Valkyries, while Firwood Waterloo Ladies welcome Wasps and Bristol Bears and Gloucester-Hartpury meet in a derby clash.

Dragons target quickfire response

After an enthralling start to the Wales Women’s Regional Championships, Dragons will be looking to bounce back from their defeat to Cardiff Blues last time out when they welcome Ospreys.

Dragons were on the wrong end of a 24-5 scoreline at Pontypridd, with Blues falling just short of claiming the bonus point following tries for Joanne Jones, Danyelle Di’Napoli and Rafiuke Taylor.

Wales winger Jasmine Joyce will also be hoping to add to her brace for Scarlets in their season opener against RGC Women when her side take on Cardiff in the other fixture.

Joyce will start at full-back once again in a backline that includes Brittony Price, Caitlin Lewis and Katie Thicker, with fellow Wales international Jodie Evans also in the XV.

Speaking this week, Joyce revealed what wearing the Welsh jersey means to her: “It’s every rugby players dream to put on a Welsh jersey from the moment you are born.

“When you become a rugby player, you want to be in that jersey. I’ve been playing rugby since I was seven and ever since that moment I’ve loved every second of it.

“To finally have that moment, of almost relief and honour, to put on the Welsh jersey for the first time really was special.”

Focus on stars of the future

Ireland head coach Adam Griggs will be keeping a watchful eye on the stars of the future when the IRFU’s High Performance Unit hosts a Women’s Emerging Talent Day on Saturday.

The camp at the National Sports Campus in Abbottstown is designed to introduce players identified from provincial development staff and from the under-18 and senior Interprovincial series to the high-performance arena.

Players will be educated around mobility preparation, recovery strategies, performance nutrition, strength and conditioning, as well as participating in two on-field rugby sessions.

Griggs said: “The aim of this Emerging Talent Day is to have a closer look at players who have been identified as having the potential to go on and play at a National level over the coming years.

“This comes on the back of a very successful time for the Women’s Performance programme as a result of the success of the National U18s 7s over the summer and on the back of the Provincial u18s and Senior Interpros series, which really highlights the youth coming through in both forms of the game.

“Exposing these players to the demands of the high performance side of the game earlier and having them come together at a National level will give them an insight into what it takes to compete at the elite end of our game.”