Women’s stars align for opening round of Premier 15s

The Tyrrells Premier 15s gets underway this weekend and everywhere you look there are storylines from across the Women’s Six Nations.

The Tyrrells Premier 15s gets underway this weekend and everywhere you look there are storylines from across the Women’s Six Nations.

Below we break down the five fixtures from the opening round and pick out some faces, old and new, to look out for.   LIGHTNING STRIKE FIRST   After narrowly missing out on the top four and the play-offs in the inaugural season of the Premier 15s – Loughborough Lightning have made some big changes this season.

And their new-look side – which includes the arrival of three England internationals in Katy Daley-McLean, Justine Lucas and Jo Brown – will look to kick-start the new season when they host Richmond.

Separated by just one position in the table last season, and after a 10-10 draw in their last meeting – there is little between the two sides.

Richmond – with a new head coach in Jonathan Griffin – have also made some new additions with former England centre Vicki Jackson joined by American Jess Wooden who was part of Quins’ run to the final last year.   QUINS SEEK REVENGE   After coming so close to winning it all last year, Quins face a tough test of their title credentials this time around.

They face Gloucester-Hartpury – who finished fourth in the standings and lost to eventual champions Sarries in the other semi-final – in a mouthwatering match-up.

Quins have been boosted by the signing of Scotland’s star No.8 Jade Konkel and will be out for revenge against a Gloucester team that handed them one of their only three regular season defeats last time they met.

Quins also welcome Ireland hooker Leah Lyons while Gloucester have lost England’s breakout star Sarah Bern but will be hoping that Ellie Kildunne can continue her meteoric rise from last season when not on England Sevens duty.

They too have recruited Scottish talent however, with prop Katie Dougan on board for their push for the top four once again.    BRISTOL IS BUZZING   After Pat Lam’s Bristol Bears men’s team opened their season with victory in the West Country derby, Saturday is the turn of the women.

They finished sixth in their opening campaign but have been boosted by the arrival of fly-half Elinor Snowsill who leads a strong Welsh contingent in the squad for their clash with last year’s semi-finalists Wasps.

Wasps only lost five games in the regular season last year in finishing third and will be looking to crack the top two this year.

England stalwarts Rochelle Clark and Danielle Waterman have now retired from international duty and can focus on club matters while they have also brought in Ireland flanker Claire Molloy, hooker Cliodhna Moloney and Team GB Olympian Amy Wilson Hardy.

SHARKS READY TO STRIKE   Darlington Mowden Park Sharks may have lost Daley-McLean this season but they do welcome Scotland’s star centre Lisa Thomson.

The Sharks – eighth last season with four wins to their name – open up with three home games in a row and will want full points from their first clash with Worcester Valkyries.

The Valkyries were winless in the inaugural Premier 15s season but have recruited heavily in the off-season.

Lydia Thompson has returned to the club while Laura Keates is like a new signing after her injury travails last season.

Scotland international Hatty Cumber also links up with the club as does New Zealand rugby league international Lisa Campbell.   CHAMPIONS READY FOR CHANGE   Saracens begin the defence of their title with a trip to Firwood Waterloo.

Waterloo were ninth last season but pushed Sarries all the way in the season opener a year ago – Sarries eventually earning a 13-22 victory.

This time around the champions have a new head coach at the helm in Alex Austerberry and will be hoping the likes of Hannah Botterman can build on a breakthrough campaign.

Zoe Harrison and Helena Rowland are also two names to watch out for while the hosts also have a new coach in Giles Heagerty at the helm and will be looking for good things from Sarah Beckett and Tysh Harper after promising first seasons in the Premier 15s.