1. ITV Report

Exeter Chiefs Women join Gloucester-Hartpury and Bristol Bears Women in Premier rugby division

New girls on the block: Exeter Chiefs Women are joining England's elite. Credit: Exeter Chiefs

This is the news we have been waiting for. After months and months of hard work behind the scenes, this is the real reward.

– Tony Rowe, Exeter Chiefs Chief Executive
The new Exeter Chiefs Women side is rapidly taking shape. Credit: ITV News

Exeter Chiefs Women have been invited to join Bristol Bears Women and Gloucester-Hartpury Women in England's top-flight rugby competition.

The three West Country clubs join seven others from around the country to have been selected by the Rugby Football Union to compete in the Tyrrells Premier 15s division for the 2020/21-2022/23 seasons.

The newly-formed Devon outfit is fully integrated with the men's club at Sandy Park and the coaching team - former England Women’s internationals Susie Appleby and Amy Garnett - have been busy trialling players in recent months to prepare for next season.

The club's chief executive says he is delighted the their application has been successful.

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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.

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.

– Tony Rowe, Exeter Chiefs Chief Executive

Bristol Bears and Gloucester-Hartpury have been given the nod to retain their top-tier status after all of this season's clubs were audited on "their ability to deliver the competition’s Minimum Operating Standards and their on pitch performance."

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The bottom four ranked teams were invited to reapply for a place at the top table, alongside any other RFY member clubs, universities and colleges.

Subject to appeals, the following 10 clubs will form the Tyrrells Premier 15s for the next three years:

  • 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

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.

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.

– Nicky Ponsford, RFU Head of Women’s Performance