The Allianz Premier 15s season will start on Saturday 10 October and will be played over 18 rounds ending with play-offs and a title final on 8 May 2021 (venue TBC).
Gloucester-Hartpury Women will kick off their Premier 15s campaign by welcoming Susie Appleby’s Exeter Chiefs, as the newcomers travel to the Alpas Arena on Saturday 10 October.
Sean Lynn’s side will then travel to Loughborough Lightning the following week (17 October), before hosting Sale Sharks in round three.
The side will finish their season just as they started it, with the return fixture against Exeter Chiefs on Saturday 10 April.
At the conclusion of the regular 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.
See the full fixture list below:
Return to Play protocols
The Allianz Premier 15s season is starting under the Government’s Elite Sport Return to Play Guidance. Law variations have been approved** to reduce in game face-to-face contact along with a range of medical and monitoring requirements to mitigate potential transmission risks and to allow competition to start without weekly testing.
All players and support staff are receiving thorough training modules and the choice to opt in to return to competition.
Before seeking approval for adapted laws, the RFU undertook a detailed risk analysis which demonstrated that compared to the Men’s Elite Game there was a higher frequency of scrums, but a lower frequency of high or smother tackles in the Women’s Elite Game (i.e. those with greater face-to-face contact).
A risk mitigation strategy has been agreed for the Allianz Premier 15s which is different to the Men’s Premiership to reflect the different on-field risk as well as recognising the practicalities of weekly testing among players with careers in addition to rugby which would prohibit testing at specific times and locations and would present challenges in terms of self-isolating as a result of false positives.
The focus for Allianz Premier 15s teams is on medical and operational practices including; symptom control, temperature checking, minimum operating standards including risk assessments, enhanced cleaning regimes, high levels of equipment and hand sanitisation and comprehensive medical support.
Transmission risk is also reduced through a prescriptive approach to training practices and an 80% reduction in face-to-face contact as a result of law variations including:
- A play advantage law from a knock-on reducing scrums by over 75%
- Free kicks awarded to the opposition for a forward pass – reducing face-to-face contact by 6%
- Removal of the option for a scrum at a free kick or penalty – reducing face-to-face contact by 7%
- A maul may only have one stop then the ball must be used to reduce the length of the maul
- No players who are not in the start of a lineout can join a maul to reduce the number of players in the maul
- It will only be possible to drive a lineout in 22m to reduce the number of mauls
- Strict social distancing while ball is out of play including set water breaks, named bottles, limited face-to-face warm up
- Game time is reduced to 35 minutes each way to mitigate risk while also recognising the game will be faster with fewer stoppages and thereby supporting player welfare
The opening nine rounds of the season will be played using the adapted law variations for the elite women’s game. The control measures employed will be reviewed and a decision will be made whether to continue with the amendments or revert to standard laws for the second half of the campaign. All matches will be played behind closed doors until further notice.
Ponsford added: “We’re thrilled to be able to announce the fixtures for the 2020/21 season. After the early ending of the 2019/20 campaign due to Covid-19, it’s been a real whole-game effort to get the Allianz Premier 15s back and I’d like to thank all clubs and departments who have worked together to reach this point.
“The Allianz Premier 15s is set to be the perfect curtain-raiser for an exciting year of women’s rugby.”