The Rugby Football Union (RFU) has today announced fixtures for the 2021/22 Allianz Premier 15s season.
It will once again be played over 18 rounds, culminating with play-offs (21 May 2022) and a title final (4 June 2022, venue TBC).
With no promotion or relegation, there are no changes to the 10 teams within England’s top flight of women’s domestic rugby, operating in a league format with home and away fixtures.
As with last season, the top four teams will play their semi-final over one leg, hosted at the respective grounds of the first and second ranked team after the conclusion of the regular season.
Holders Harlequins Women start their campaign at home to last season’s semi-finalists Loughborough Lightning while there’s a mouth-watering London derby as Wasps take on Saracens Women.
Bristol Bears Women begin life under new head coach Dave Ward with a West Country Derby against Exeter Chiefs while DMP Durham Sharks travel to Gloucester-Hartpury and Sale Sharks host Jo Yapp’s Worcester Warriors.
A total of 10 reserve weekends have been included.
The new season also sees the introduction of The Allianz Cup which has been created to give an opportunity to wider squad players to compete during international windows.
Clubs will be ranked by their 2021/22 league finishing position and then drawn in two pools of five, with clubs playing each other once in two home games, two away games, one BYE week over five rounds.
The top two teams in each pool will progress to the semi-finals played at the highest ranked clubs’ venues (16 April 2022) as well a third-placed play-off and showpiece final (both 22 April 2022). The Allianz Cup final will be played at the home venue of the winning semi-finalist club with the highest points’ difference.
The bottom four ranked teams will enter fifth, seventh and ninth placed play-off finals with the home team once again determined by stage 1 league tables.
The Cup competition also gives greater exposure to every Allianz Premier 15s round.
Clubs are now permitted to sign 15 ‘dual-registered’ players from lower league clubs who must all be England qualified and the Cup will also provide a platform for their development.
Streaming details for the league will be confirmed in due course.
RFU Director of Performance Rugby, Conor O’Shea said: “The standard of the Allianz Premier 15s is growing year-on-year.
“Despite the challenges presented by Covid-19, all of our clubs did an incredible job on and off the field to ensure we continued momentum and completed what was a very competitive campaign last season culminating in a memorable final at Kingsholm – their hard work, effort and dedication is appreciated.”
“We’re really looking forward to the forthcoming season.”
“The calendar gives greater profile and exposure to every Allianz Premier 15s round and introduction of the Allianz Cup is a welcome and exciting development and provides vital game time for the wider squad players.”
“The domestic season kicks off what is a huge 15 months of women’s rugby.”
Carolyn Rich, head of brand marketing and social responsibility at Allianz said: “We’re really excited for the next season of Allianz Premier 15s to begin and are looking forward to continuing to support women in sport. As Official Insurance Partner of England Rugby, and title partner of Allianz Premier 15s and Inner Warrior, we’re committed to increasing interest and awareness of the women’s game whilst promoting inclusion, diversity and excellence. We look forward to working with the RFU this season to support women’s rugby from grassroots level upwards, and are excited for the future of the sport.”