Premier 15s returns with West Country derby

·2 min read
Exeter Chiefs added Irish winger Laura Sheehan and USA forwards Rachel Johnson and Joanna Kitlinski to their squad.

Women’s domestic rugby returns this weekend with the Allianz Premier 15s back up and running for the new year.

Adapted laws were introduced at the start of the season because players are not tested for COVID-19 transmission and the clubs, RFU medical staff and performance directors have decided to retain them in their mid-season review.

Some adaptations include 35-minute halves, to reduce the amount of contact, and not having the option to scrum at a free-kick or penalty.

With the league not being fully professional and having a hybrid of amateur and professional players, it was decided that no testing would take place.

However, Harlequins and US international Kristine Sommer questioned the decision and called for more discussion around player safety and welfare.

Two fixtures were supposed to take place last weekend, but the top of the table clash between Quins and Saracens was postponed due to a positive COVID-19 test.

And while DMP Durham Sharks and Sale Sharks’ fixture was called off because of a frozen pitch, both matches have now been rearranged.

Saturday sees five fixtures take place, starting with a West Country derby at Shaftesbury Park as Bristol Bears host Exeter Chiefs.

It will be a tight affair on the pitch as both teams have 17 points to their name – Chiefs sit in sixth while Bears are in seventh due to a better points difference.

Ahead of the game, Chiefs signed a trio of international players as Irish winger Laura Sheehan, plus USA forwards Rachel Johnson and Joanna Kitlinski, joined the side.

Quins, who remain unbeaten in the league this season and top the table, face Wasps, who sit third.

The last time the sides met was in round two when the south London side got the better of Wasps 31-12.

Another team hoping to maintain their unbeaten streak are Saracens, who host ninth-placed Sale Sharks.

Sarries have added two players to their squad with Canadian internationals Alysha Corrigan and Emma Taylor joining the side and will be hoping to maintain pace with leaders Quins.

DMP Durham Sharks, who sit at the foot of the table without a point to their name, face Worcester Warriors while Gloucester-Hartpury host Loughborough Lightning.