Leicester and Ealing set to join women’s Premier 15s as four clubs miss out
Leicester are set to become the latest men’s Premiership club to field a side in the women’s Premier 15, with Ealing also being offered a place in the league.
Eight clubs have been offered a place in the next cycle of competitions, starting with the 2023/24 season.
Two more could still be selected, with the Rugby Football Union (RFU) saying the league has capacity for 10 teams.
Loughborough are the most northerly team at the moment, with DMP Sharks and Sale left out at this point.
Financially strapped Worcester and Wasps are also not included, although clubs can appeal the decision.
Leicester and Ealing, leaders in the men’s Championship, are supported in the league by existing Premier 15s clubs Loughborough, who are backed by the men’s Premiership team, Northampton Saints, Bristol, Exeter, Gloucester-Hartpury, Harlequins and Saracens.
The RFU said “there is a possibility that clubs may join the league at a later date” and that the eight clubs’ admission is “subject to the signing of shareholder and other agreements”.
It added that the selection panel “made a strong recommendation to explore how to achieve greater geographical diversification in the league”.
The RFU is “working to develop a solution” for clubs that have applied but have not been offered a place in the league.
What did the excluded teams say?
All four teams eliminated from the league made statements following the RFU’s announcement.
Wasps said they hoped to re-enter the league “at the earliest opportunity”, adding they would make the move from London to Coventry to work more closely with the men’s side.
Worcester is “dedicated to working with the RFU to secure one of the last league spots”.
DMP Sharks, who have had to crowdfund this season to remain in the league, have not applied for inclusion next season due to increased investment needs.
A statement from Sharks players said: “Our goal remains to fight for elite competition in the North East and while there is no representation for the area in the Premier 15s next season, we hope the future for the care of the wide rosy remains the region’s home of talent.”
Sale Sharks CEO Sid Sutton said: “Everyone at Sale Sharks is absolutely devastated by today’s decision to reject the club’s application to remain part of the Premier 15s League.
“We are all disappointed that the Premier 15 will not have representation in the North from 2023-24, despite a stated desire to ensure a ‘wider geographical spread’ of teams.”
Former England player Giselle Mather, Ealing’s director of women’s rugby, said she was “delighted” with the club’s inclusion, while fellow ex-Red Rose colleague Vicky Macqueen, head of women’s rugby at Leicester, said it was was a “big day for Leicester Tigers”. “.