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2022/23 Premier 15s predictions: Who will be the ruler of England?

By Matt Merritt
Saracens celebrate after their victory during the Allianz Premier 15's Final between Saracens Women and Exeter Women at Sixways Stadium on June 03, 2022 in Worcester, England. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

The 2022-23 Allianz Premier 15s season is upon us and before a ball is even kicked what we already know is it’s going to be an interesting one! With a number of teams losing funding through the demise of their male partner clubs and others steaming ahead building international calibre squads, the distance between top and bottom could be even more stark than seasons past.

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Following on from the World Cup and the impressive viewing numbers the tournament garnered and a large number of countries with players involved in the English league, it now seems this is the time for the Premier 15s to take a step forward. With a rock-solid product on the pitch, steadily growing attendances for many clubs, a new CEO and chair, as well as a host of international stars plying their trade week-in week-out, all that remains is to grow the audience for live streams and TV broadcasts.

So who will come out on top and who will struggle over the season ahead? Let RugbyPass give you the rundown as we work our way up from last year’s bottom placed team to the eventual champs, sharing some key signings and giving our best estimate of where they will finish out the regular season.

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DMP Sharks
Last season finish: 10th
This year prediction: 10th
Key player: Mackenzie Thomas-Roberts

With no new signings announced, but some key names leaving it looks likely that DMP will struggle once again. Finishing bottom again could well condemn them to losing their place in the league once the next round of bidding for teams is concluded, but as always they will play with pride and even though some teams will rack up impressive point totals against them, they’ll find Darlington a tough place to visit as the Sharks once again play every game with their hearts on their sleeves.

Sale Sharks Women
Last season finish: 9th
This year prediction: 8th
Key player: Lizzie Duffy

Sale Sharks have shown their teeth in the off-season, snapping up the likes of USA Eagles Alycia Washington and Carly Waters to add some veteran nous to a team full of young talent, including fly-half Lizzie Duffy who continues to grow and impress under the watchful eye of Katy Daley-Mclean. The first two seasons in the league have been tough going for Sale and while we still see them finishing in the bottom three expect them to make some real progress on the pitch before the season is out.

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Worcester University Warriors Women
Last season finish: 8th
This year prediction: 7th
Key player: Jo Brown

For a long time, it has felt as if something is building in Worcester and, with concerns over their ability to play this season having been resolved, we’re expecting to see the Warriors finally take a step forward and lift themselves out of the bottom three. With veteran leadership from Lyndsay O’Donnell and Jo Brown, aligned with some electric backs, and exciting young talents like Akina Gondwe whose best playing days are still to come, Warriors seem to be in a good place. They’ve recruited shrewdly too, with Welsh wing Lowri Norkett and Scottish back row Evie Gallagher among Head Coach Jo Yapp’s new signings.

Loughborough Lightning
Last season finish: 7th
This year prediction: 6th
Key player: Sadia Kabeya

Last year was a tough one for Loughborough Lightning as the former playoff contenders slipped down the table. This year expect a little bit of a resurgence, especially once their internationals return. The world woke up to how good Sadia Kabeya is, although not news for Premier 15s fans. That said, expect her to take a step forward as she becomes a key player for Loughborough. She’ll be joined by two former Sale players as Molly Kelly and Daisy Hibbert-Jones have travelled south to join the team, the latter in particular is an excellent addition who can slot in anywhere across the second or back rows and not look out of place.

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Gloucester-Hartpury Women
Last season finish: 6th
This year prediction: 2nd
Key player: Emma Sing

Now things are getting interesting! Not content with already having the likes of 2021 World Player of the Year Zoe Aldcroft and England’s Natasha Hunt to call upon, Gloucester-Hartpury Head Coach Sean Lynn has been on a shopping spree ahead of the new season. Red Roses Maud Muir and Alex Matthews head to the west country outfit and they’ll be joined by former Wasps Sam Monaghan, Wales captain Siwan Lillicrap and another England international in Sarah Beckett. With so much quality coming in, including a few players who didn’t go to the World Cup so will be available from week one of the season, and a host of exciting home-grown talent such as Emma Sing, expect the cherry and whites to fly up the table this season!

Wasps Women
Last season finish: 5th
This year prediction: 9th
Key player: Ciara Cooney

It’s been a tough summer for Wasps Women. An exodus of key players including Claudia MacDonald, Cliodhna Maloney, Ellie Boatman, Claire Molloy, Bryony Cleall and Edel McMahon (to name just a few) have left them looking like a skeleton of their former selves and even as we are writing this, new signing Lenaig Corson has been announced as joining Harlequins Women while club stalwart Flo Williams has signed for Saracens along with Mica Evans. They still have some top end talent at the time of writing, with Abby Dow confirming she remains a Wasp and former Red Rose Rowena Burnfield shoring up their pack, but Ciara Cooney will be their key player, her leadership on the field and international experience will be vital to keep the team together in tough moments.

Harlequins Women
Last season finish: 4th
This year prediction: 3rd
Key player: Emily Scott

Quins have been among the Premier 15s top teams since the league’s inception, and we don’t see that changing. They’ve lost two big names in Jess Breach and Sarah Beckett, but have added Ellie Boatman, the aforementioned Corson, Australian internationals Emily Chancellor and Bella Mackenzie plus Bryony Cleall. The latter, added to Shaunagh Brown and Chloe Edwards, surely gives Quins the best set of tightheads in the league. Perhaps their best signing was Amy Turner who takes over head coaching duties and will look to put her stamp on an already impressive squad.

Bristol Bears Women
Last season finish: 3rd
This year prediction: 5th
Key player: Amber Reed

We feel bad slotting Bristol Bears into fifth place, but there is so much talent at the top end of this league and not every team can secure a play-off place. Don’t count the Bears out though, they have a wealth of talent, including Simi Pam with her box-office tries and have added some extra quality with the likes of Lark Davies and Claire Molloy joining the team. If they can cure the inconsistency that saw them drop off the pace in the second half of last season, they could well prove us wrong!

Exeter Chiefs Women
Last season finish: 2nd
This year prediction: 4th
Key player: Kate Zackary

Susie Appleby’s team have made strides since joining the league two years ago and even though we are predicting them slipping a couple of places due to improvements elsewhere, we expect them to be a better outfit than last season. Chiefs have pounced on a few Wasps players, with MacDonald, Maloney and McMahon all relocating to Devon to bolster their ranks and have retained the core of US and Canadian players who have given them a cutting edge. Keep an eye on young English talent such as Merryn Doidge and Flo Robinson as they continue to grow into the league too.

Saracens Women
Last season finish: 1st
This year prediction: 1st
Key player: May Campbell

The gold standard for the Allianz Premier 15s, Saracens have won all but one season and have featured in every final. Alex Austerberry’s team is stuffed full of English talent from veterans like Marlie Packer through to exciting young talents such as Holly Aitchison. Add Jess Breach and Leanne Infante to the mix and you can practically fill the team with capped Red Roses. It’s their conveyor belt of young talent that really sets Saracens apart though, look for Cece Gordon-Hill to become a bigger part of the team this season and exciting young talent Chloe Langdale who returns from a series of injuries will be looking for a moment to shine too. Saracens will once again be the team to beat, and it’s expected that, once again, not many teams will manage to, especially at home.

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