England legend Susie Appleby is hoping the recent Women's Rugby World Cup triumph will help to usher in a new era of dominance for the sport, starting in Gloucestershire.
The fly half, who played 65 times for her country over a 10-year period, is heading up the new Gloucester-Hartpury women's team from September that will be looking to develop the next generation of women's rugby stars.
The winning women's squad at this year's World Cup contained an impressive four players with Hartpury links. Danielle Waterman, a former women's rugby coach at the college, was joined by Hartpury graduates Ceri Large, Alex Matthews and Natasha Hunt.
Now Police Constable Appleby hopes that the World Cup win will give a boost to the game in the county and is confident that the Gloucestershire-based college will continue to be at the forefront of the development of the sport.
"Firstly I'd like to congratulate all the England girls on their achievement, it really was an excellent performance from start to finish," said Susie.
"Women's rugby has grown immensely since I started playing, and even more so over the last few years. Hartpury really has been leading the way in bringing on our country's next generation of stars.
"This new partnership between Hartpury and Gloucester, who also have such a strong reputation already in men's rugby, is an opportunity to combine these forces and develop talented players from throughout Gloucestershire, creating a women's team that will be a force to be reckoned with."
The new Gloucester-Hartpury club is open to players from clubs and colleges and universities throughout Gloucestershire and will provide a progression route for girls wanting to play at a higher level.
Susie is currently working hard to organise a crop of friendlies ahead of entering the national cup and is still keen to recruit any players who feel they are of the standard to feature at the highest levels of women's rugby.
"The ultimate aim is to compete at Women's Premiership level and to grow the game further in Gloucestershire," she said.
"The amount of Gloucestershire representatives in the World Cup winning squad shows that this really is the best place in the South West to play women's rugby. This new team is a great opportunity to establish a strong player base and eventually compete against the top teams in the country."
The team will be holding a development day at the college on Saturday 23rd August from 10am to 12pm for aspiring players keen to pitch themselves against other up and coming women's players. Anyone interested in attending the day should contact Susie directly on email@example.com
The team will be part of the Gloucester Rugby franchise, and the plan is for the women's side to have the opportunity to play some of their matches as a curtain-raiser to Aviva Premiership matches at Kingsholm. The management team, including Appleby, will have experience of playing and coaching at the highest level.
Hartpury's Director of Elite Sport, Phil de Glanville, said:
"Interest in the new team has been good so far and we're hoping the World Cup win will give the sport another boost in the county. To have four players linked to Hartpury involved in the squad is a massive achievement and something which we will look to build on in the future.
"The college continues to lead the way in the development of young players and we're really excited about this new project with Gloucester Rugby, which will move our established partnership forward again.
"We've been working hard behind the scenes and it's a great opportunity for the best young players to progress with the support of two top-level rugby set-ups."
Gloucester Rugby return to Aviva Premiership action on Friday evening after two rounds of European fixtures. A testing trip to Northampton lies in wait, a tough challenge, but Director of Rugby David Humphreys wants to see his side continue their development of recent weeks.
GRTV travelled to Sixways on Wednesday morning, for the Urban Rugby Squad Festival, where the Gloucester Urban Rugby Squad met other Premiership teams. Young players from Cinderford Fire Cadets and MY:UK, Gloucester made up the Cherry and White squad.
GRTV FEATURE | We caught up with Rugby Development Manager Terry Fanolua on Monday morning, on the first day of the Half Term Rugby Camps at Wycliffe College. Fanolua spoke about what was in store ahead of a busy week on the pitch! Check out the GoPro footage as we got up close to the action!
Speaking after the 37-8 European Rugby Challenge Cup win over Benetton Treviso, James Hook admitted that the Italian side made things tough for Gloucester at times but that the Cherry and Whites are happy to take the bonus point win and turn their focus to Northampton next week.
Speaking to GRTV after the game, Backs Coach Tim Taylor was happy with the squad as they cruised to victory over Treviso. The result wasn't in doubt, but the Cherry and Whites laboured to secure a crucial try bonus point.
Speaking to the local media this week, Gloucester Rugby centre Matt Scott is excited to take the field again as the Cherry and Whites look to build on the win in Bayonne when Treviso come to Kingsholm this Saturday.
Defence Coach Jonny Bell admitted this week that the European Rugby Challenge Cup victory in Bayonne was a welcome one, stressed that Benetton Treviso will pose a tough test on Saturday at Kingsholm but that Gloucester are determined to deliver in front of their own fans.
A fantastic effort from Gloucester at Franklin's Gardens on Friday evening, as the Cherry and Whites were left to contemplate conceding a controversial first half try and a number of missed scoring opportunities as Northampton edged a tight one by 23 points to 20.