The Rugby Football Union has announced the 10 teams that have been offered places in a new women’s domestic competition from September 2017.
The 10 successful teams that have been offered a place in Women’s Super Rugby, subject to contract, are: Bristol Ladies Rugby Ltd, Darlington Mowden Park Sharks, Firwood Waterloo Ladies, Harlequin FC, Gloucester-Hartpury Women’s RFC, Loughborough Students (Lightning), Richmond FC, Saracens Women, Wasps FC Ladies and Worcester Valkyries.
“This is another significant development for women’s rugby in this country,” said RFU director of professional rugby Nigel Melville.
“Women’s Super Rugby will drive standards in the game, both domestically and at an elite level, and continue to encourage more women and girls to play the sport.”
All applicants will be required to deliver against a set of minimum operating standards, which are designed to create an infrastructure within the clubs to support an increasingly professional game.
The key focus of these minimum standards include developing a professional coaching resource to support players in training throughout the week.
There is also an aim to provide teams with regular and expert sports science support and medical provision for both training and match-days and as well as improve the training and playing environment.
The competition will receive a multi-million pound investment from the RFU over the next three years to help deliver the minimum standards expected and provide high-quality coaching, facilities, training environments and community engagement plans.
“We now have the opportunity to build a world-class domestic competition, with the backing and funding of the RFU, demonstrating the union’s commitment to growing the game at all levels,” added Melville.
The announcement reflects the increasing popularity and success of women’s rugby in England following the Red Roses’ success of winning the Women’s Rugby World Cup in 2014 and Great Britain playing in the first sevens competition of the Olympic Games last year in Rio.
This season has seen the RFU announce its ambitions to double the number of women and girls playing rugby to 50,000 and the arrival of 15-a-side professional contracts ahead of eagerly anticipated Women’s Rugby World Cup in August this year.
“We are really excited about the innovative opportunity that Women’s Super Rugby gives us to reach new participants and attract new fans to the game, and we are determined to make the most of this opportunity,” added RFU head of women’s performance Nicky Ponsford.