Exeter Rugby Club chief executive, Tony Rowe OBE, has today spoken of his delight after it was confirmed that the newly-formed Chiefs’ Women’s side have had their application to join the Tyrrells Premier 15s division for the 2020/21-2022/23 seasons accepted.
An independently verified audit took place in the first half of the 2019/20 season, where each current Tyrrells Premier 15s club was assessed based on a combination of their ability to deliver the competition’s Minimum Operating Standards and their on pitch performance. Clubs were then ranked from one to 10 based on the audit results.
Bristol Bears Women, Gloucester-Hartpury Women, Harlequins Women, Loughborough Lightning, Saracens Women and Wasps FC Ladies were the top six ranked teams and invited to join the next three-year league structure.
At the same time, the bottom four ranked teams were invited to re-tender for a place in the competition and applications for tender opened to all RFU Member Clubs, universities and colleges that wished to apply.
A selection panel reviewed and shortlisted all tender applications and interviews took place via conference call.
Darlington Mowden Park Sharks, Exeter Chiefs Women, Sale Sharks Women and Worcester Warriors Women were the successful quartet.
All clubs are required to sign a participation agreement with the RFU and the offers remain conditional until this is received. Decisions are also subject to appeal.
Subject to the above, the 10 clubs which will form the Tyrrells Premier 15s for the next three years are:
- Bristol Bears Women
- Darlington Mowden Park Sharks
- Exeter Chiefs Women
- Gloucester-Hartpury Women
- Harlequins Women
- Loughborough Lightning
- Sale Sharks Women
- Saracens Women
- Wasps FC Ladies
- Worcester Warriors Women
Speaking this morning, Rowe said: “This is the news we have been waiting for. After months and months of hard work behind the scenes, this is the real reward.
“I wanted to start a women’s side many years ago. We looked at the idea when the first applications for the Tyrrells Premier 15s division were out, but we weren’t in a position to go forward at that time. This time, though, we weren’t going to miss the boat and it’s fantastic that we’re now very much part and parcel of things.
“Having both coaches [Susie Appleby and Amy Garnett] come on board earlier this year has helped massively and their work, together with many others, has paid off significantly. But what today’s announcement confirms is the missing piece of the jigsaw that we needed.
Rowe added: “Today represents another huge milestone in the history of our great club and it further enhances our aim of creating the rugby giant that is Exeter Chiefs Rugby Club.
“Now, Susie and Amy can really start to kick on and get on board all those players they have been chatting to and interviewing over the last few months all signed up and ready for next season.
“As I’ve said previously, these are hugely exciting times and the fact that we now have Premiership teams at both men’s and women’s level is fantastic not only for the club, but for the city, and the region as a whole.”
Nicky Ponsford, RFU Head of Women’s Performance said: “My thoughts and those of all of us at the RFU are with everyone impacted by COVID-19, both across the country and within our rugby union community.
"I’d like to thank all clubs for their co-operation, especially in recent weeks where even during these unprecedented circumstances, we have managed to adapt and continue to work to original timelines.
“We said from the outset that this process allows us to recognise the input of current clubs but still open up the league to potential new entrants with a geographical spread maintained where possible and that’s reflected in the results.
“The quality of the applications was very high.
“We’re looking forward to working with those clubs who have been with us since the league launched in 2017 as well as welcome Exeter and Sale, both of whom have exciting plans which will undoubtedly add quality to the division both on and off the field.”
Additionally, the Tyrrells Premier 15s Development League will no longer take place and this will take effect from next season (2020/2021).
Those Tyrrells Premier 15s clubs who wish to run a development team next season are in discussions with the RFU on the most appropriate options available.