A NEW era for women’s rugby in England

On 1 July 2023 Premiership Women’s Rugby (PWR) was launched replacing the previous Premier 15s. Premiership Women’s Rugby will manage the Allianz Premiership Women’s Rugby club competition, which starts in the autumn of 2023.

Led by new chief executive officer, Belinda Moore, Premiership Women's Rugby has been established to deliver a ten-year strategy for women’s rugby in England. As part of that strategy a new, ten-team, Allianz Premiership Women's Rugby league will be launched as a partnership with the Rugby Football Union (RFU) and the clubs.

The ambition for Premiership Women's Rugby is built on a new vision and mission to carry the organisation through the next decade and create a generation of players and fans inspired by world-class club competition.

The mission of Premiership Women’s Rugby (PWR) is to be the world’s most competitive, progressive and sustainable domestic competition. The new company, consisting of a small team working closely with League clubs and the Rugby Football Union (RFU), will deliver the strategy, drive growth and lead the way in the development of professional women’s club rugby.

Premiership Women's Rugby

Premiership Women's Rugby chief executive, Belinda Moore said:

“Our ambition is to transform the league into the world's most competitive, progressive, and sustainable domestic rugby competition."

“Elite women’s rugby in England has never been in a stronger place, and a new era started on 1 July. The competition's new look and feel is designed to be powerful, dynamic, and eye-catching. It aims to capture the excitement and high energy of the league, the players, the fans, and the sport as a whole.”

A few days before the launch of Premiership Women’s Rugby we saw the final Allianz Premier 15s title decided with Gloucester-Hartpury beating Exeter Chiefs 34-19 in front of a record crowd at the aptly-named Queensholm.

The Allianz Premier 15s trophy wasn’t the only one on offer in 2022-23 with Exeter Chiefs lifting the Allianz Cup by beating Saracens 29-19 at Sandy Park.

The Allianz Premier 15s campaign – which was won by Gloucester-Hartpury – was another tantalising one, with more 40 games being streamed live on thepwr.com and the return of The Allianz Cup for a successive season.

Thirty three years before Natasha Hunt and Zoe Aldcroft lifted the 2022-23 Allianz Premier 15s trophy, the Women’s Premiership was initially formed (in 1990) and mainly made up of university sides instead of teams associated with clubs.

The Rugby Football Union for Women (RFUW) was created in 1994 after Ireland and Scotland decided to form their own women’s unions and took over running the Women’s Premiership.

However, the RFUW was integrated into the RFU in 2014 so they were one combined body instead of having a separate union for the women’s game.

Saracens Women are the most successful side since the turn of the century as they have secured the title 13 times, with Richmond, who last won the title in 2016, with five wins.

Saracens were in fact champions for four seasons in a row between 2006 and 2009, with Richmond then going on a three-year winning streak with three straight titles from 2010.

Wasps FC Ladies were crowned England’s best side from 2003 to 2005 while Worcester Valkyries Ladies and Bristol Ladies have also secured one title each.

Aylesford Bulls Ladies, who are now Harlequins Ladies, were the last team to win the title in the previous format when they beat Bristol 17-8 in the play-off final in April 2017 at Sixways Stadium.

For the 2017-18 season the competition became known as the Tyrrells Premier 15s and clubs were invited to apply for a franchise in the new competition with 10 places available in the newly formatted domestic competition. This was part of a £2.4m investment by the RFU in the women’s game over a three-year period.

Saracens Women were crowned champions of the first-ever Tyrrells Premier 15s season after they beat Harlequins Women 24-20 in the final at Trailfinders Sports Ground, and repeated the feat a year later, when they beat the same opposition at Franklin's Gardens. The 2019-20 season was declared null and void because of the COVID-19 global pandemic.

The 2020-21 season, returning as Allianz Premier 15s, saw two new teams enter the competition with Exeter Chiefs Women and Sale Sharks Women invited to participate in the 10-team league following an independent external audit. Harlequins Women secured their first title in the new format with a thrilling 25-17 win over Saracens Women at Kingsholm.

After 10 months and 19 gruelling league matches, Saracens returned to winning ways for the 2021-22 season with an emphatic 43-21 win against Exeter Chiefs in the final at Sixways, before Gloucester-Hartpury wrestled the title from their grasp in June 2023.

Useful Contacts

For all the latest news from Allianz Premiership Women's Rugby you can follow @thePWR on Twitter and Instagram.

For further information about Premiership Women's Rugby see www.thepwr.com or email [email protected].

For media enquiries contact Paul Morgan at [email protected] or 07557 477 796.