The Rugby Football Union (RFU) has today confirmed the process for finalising the next three-year structure of the Tyrrells Premier 15s – the top-flight women’s domestic rugby competition in England.
In the first half of the upcoming season (2019/20) the RFU will audit all ten existing Tyrrells Premier 15s clubs on a combination of their ability to deliver the Minimum Operating Standards and their on pitch performance.
This audit will be independently verified and the clubs ranked from 1 to 10 based on the audit results.
Following this, the top six ranked teams will be invited to join the next three-year league structure covering seasons 2020/21 to 2022/23.
The bottom four ranked teams will be invited to re-tender for a place in the competition should they wish to do so. At the same time, applications for tender will open to all clubs that wish to apply.
Expression of interest letters are being issued this week to all RFU member clubs, universities and colleges in England.
All tenders will be assessed by a selection panel and a shortlist will be created.
The original four Tyrrells Premier 15s teams who were invited to tender and the winners of the Championship North and Championship South divisions will be automatically shortlisted provided that they choose to tender to join the next three-year competition structure. They will be joined by any other teams meeting the shortlist criteria.
All successfully shortlisted clubs will be invited to interview and assessed by the selection panel.
The best four teams selected by the selection panel after the interview and assessment stage will then be invited to join the league starting from the 2020/21 season. The new structure will be maintained for three years and then reviewed again for the 2023/24 season.
This proposal means that potentially a maximum of four teams could be removed from the Tyrrells Premier 15s at the end of the 2019/20 season. These teams would then be included within the Women’s Championship competition by increasing the pool size of Championship North and Championship South to a maximum of 10 teams each.
Nicky Ponsford, RFU Head of Women’s Performance said: “We are delighted by the progress made by Tyrrells Premier 15s clubs over the last two years and by their commitment to driving the programme forward. This process allows us to recognise the input of the clubs but still open up the league to potential new entrants with a geographical spread maintained where possible. This keeps the focus on minimum standards and ensures we continue to raise the bar and increase performance.”
Nigel Melville, RFU Professional Rugby Director added: “The commitment and dedication from all clubs as well as the standard of rugby over the first two seasons has been fantastic.
“The league was initially set up for three years to give clubs a chance to embed, grow, invest and develop support services. It also coincides with World Cup cycles so there’s minimal disruption to players.
“We always felt this was the best time to review as we aim to create the best domestic 15s women’s competition in the world which will give us the winning advantage on the world stage.
“The purpose of the league will remain the same. It’s a competition at the highest domestic level of the women’s game which continues to support the overall objective to produce winning teams for England Women 15s and 7s teams.
“We want the women’s game to continue to flourish at all levels and know a strong domestic game is imperative in increasing participation and interest.”