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International stars set for Premier 15s semi-finals

Emily Scarratt

It’s crunch time across the continent with a raft of European club competitions drawing to a close and crowning their champions over the next few weeks.

And nowhere is that more so than in the Allianz Premier 15s where we are set for a thrilling conclusion to the season, with a host Women’s Six Nations stars set to take to the field in two semi-finals on Saturday.

Firstly, there is the small matter of a London derby between Harlequins and Wasps to whet the appetite before reigning champions Saracens clash with Loughborough Lightning, with places in the showpiece final at Kingsholm on Saturday May 30 and a shot at becoming champions of England up for grabs.

The opener sees Harlequins, who finished second in the regular season, take on Wasps, who finished third, at The Stoop.

The two sides were separated by just two points in the standings so this contest could be a nail-biter – and it pits England’s top forwards against their best backs.

Quins boast a hardened and experienced front row with international stars Vickii Cornborough and Shaunagh Brown at the centre of a side which has conceded just 92 points at home, the fewest of any team in the competition.

Both provided the steel behind England’s 2021 Women’s Six Nations triumph and started in the thrilling 10-6 victory over France in the final. 

They will come up against a Wasps backline full of pace, with England’s Abigail Dow fresh off of a try double against France three weeks ago.

Dow also scored two tries in this year’s victorious Championship campaign and her finishing prowess could go a long way to deciding this contest.

Add to that young full-back talent in the form of Ellie Kildunne, who featured in the Women’s Six Nations final and crossed twice for her club side last time out, and you’ve got a potent attack.

But England star Jess Breach will provide ample threat of her own for Quins from the wing, having scored a hat-trick in her side’s 67-0 win over DMP Durham Sharks last time out.

Meanwhile Quins centre Leanne Riley, who was named in Maggie Alphonsi’s Team of the Championship, will also be one to look out for.

Then, later on, Loughborough bid to reach their first-ever final as they take on two-time champions Saracens at StoneX Stadium.

Both sides have a raft of international quality in their ranks and met in a thriller earlier this month, which went the way of Saracens 38-29.

Poppy Cleall

Women’s Six Nations Player of the Championship Poppy Cleall will be looking to add to her incredible year with a place in the Premier 15s final for Sarries.

And sister Bryony, Sarah McKenna, Hannah Botterman and Zoe Harrison add further international strength to a side who finished six points clear at the top of the table and have only lost twice all season.

Loughborough, meanwhile, finished fourth and for all their international stars, have never contested a Premier 15s final.

But any side containing England captain Sarah Hunter, vice-captain and superstar Emily Scarratt as well fly-half Helena Rowland will be a tough nut to crack.

Add to that the Scottish international core of Scotland skipper Rachel Malcolm, Rhona Lloyd, Helen Nelson and Emma Wassell and you’ve got an all-star clash on your hands.

You will not want to miss these two games.