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Premier 15s returns for opening weekend

Abbie Ward Premier

A week on from the conclusion of a dramatic Rugby World Cup final, the women’s game has the chance to build on that momentum as the Allianz Premier 15s gets underway.

Players from all over the TikTok Women’s Six Nations will be taking part and after the success of the World Cup, now the hope is that the interest in the game will continue to flourish.

The opening weekend features some tantalising fixtures, including last year’s runners-up Exeter Chiefs taking on West Country rivals Gloucester.

The Cherry & Whites are captained by England great Mo Hunt, and there is a lot of Irish interest with Exeter able to call on skipper Nichola Fryday, while their visitors have Ireland duo Neve Jones and Sam Monaghan in the pack.

Elsewhere, champions Saracens play host to Loughborough Lightning on Sunday, with Harlequins, semi-finalists a year ago, also getting their campaign underway against Worcester.

England’s World Cup contingent will not be back for another couple of weeks as they take a well-earned break following their run to the final in New Zealand.

But Bristol Bears star Abbie Ward explained that the absence of the Red Roses stars in those opening rounds has done nothing to dim the appetite for tickets.

She said: “The place in which women’s rugby is in right now is pretty exciting.

“We’ve seen over the past month the growth, the momentum and excitement around it.

“Every day I’m having people ringing me up saying, ‘we can’t get tickets’, there’s only standing or all the good seats have gone, and that’s unbelievable.

“It’s so exciting and hopefully we can slingshot that into the Premier 15s. It’s what we all want to see.

“We’re obviously pretty heartbroken to not be able to bring it home for everyone with the support we had through the tournament.

“When the dust has settled, we’ll be able to look back and be proud of what we achieved.

“The thing is it’s such a young team, such an exciting team and I’ve got no doubt we’ll learn from all of this going into the next phase of our development.

“The next tournament is a home one for us and we’ll have home support, so between now and then we want to continue to build women’s rugby in England.”

Ward’s Bears outfit will take on Wasps on Saturday, with the other game of the opening round pitting Sale Sharks and DMP Sharks against one another.