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Harlequins Women put down Toulon-esque marker

It has been a busy summer at Harlequins, with the likes of Stephan Lewies, Martin Landajo and Vereniki Goneva all making their way to the Stoop for the coming season.

For all the firepower the men’s side have recruited, though, it could well be Harlequins Women that has done the better businesses, raiding teams home and abroad for some of best and most promising players in the game.

Having made it to the final of the Tyrrells Premier 15s in the competition’s first two seasons, only to fall short to Saracens in both of those matches, Harlequins have pushed hard this summer to close the gap on their London rivals.

The first signing announced by the club was Giada Franco. The Italian openside is set to join the likes of Jade Konkel in the Harlequins back row and the Italian and Scottish internationals are capable of forming one of the most dynamic loose forward pairings in the competition.

Franco was key to Italy’s best ever Six Nations finish of second earlier this year, as she helped her side with impressive performances in the victories over Scotland, Ireland and France.

Next up on the club’s shopping list was Amy Cokayne, the England hooker who is returning to the sport after taking a year away to complete her RAF training in 2018. Prior to that absence, Cokayne had proven herself to be one of the most destructive ball-carriers in the women’s game and is now set to compete with Irish international Leah Lyons and Davinia Catlin for the starting berth at the club.

Harlequins also snapped up Sarah Beckett from Firwood Waterloo following the 20-year-old’s breakout season with the England national team in 2018/19. Another powerful ball-carrier to complement Franco and Cokayne, Beckett’s transition from age-grade to senior rugby has been seamless over the past season and she will add yet further options to Quins’ enviable stock of loose forwards.

The club doubled down on exciting young English talent, too, bringing in Lagi Tuima from Bristol Bears for the 2019/20 season. Tuima made her debut for England back in 2017, although injuries have prevented her from adding to the five international caps she currently has. Comfortable at centre and full-back, Tuima could star alongside Rachel Burford in Quins’ midfield, or link up with Jess Breach in the back three.

One factor that could keep Tuima in the midfield is the addition of Scottish international full-back Chloé Rollie, with the versatile back joining from Lille. Rollie’s versatility is no surprise, with the 30-capped back having previously played for Scotland Sevens alongside her commitments in XVs. A berth on the wing could materialise should Quins opt to use Emily Scott at 15, with the group’s interchangeability something that is sure to help them over the course of the season.

The club’s final signing was Ireland international Anna Caplice, who arrives from Munster. The flanker further stocks Quins’ back row and between herself, Beckett, Franco and Konkel, as well as Shaunagh Brown, if the England international isn’t being used in the front row, the club now boasts a dazzling array of international talent in their back row.

It has been a summer of recruitment reminiscent of those that Toulon enjoyed in the men’s game six or seven years ago where there was no end to the number of star names signed. Harlequins Women have now put down a marker in their bid to catch and overhaul Saracens in the Premier 15s, as well as showcasing the growing professional nature of the women’s game.

WATCH: Going Pro, the RugbyPass documentary with Saracens Women

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Harlequins Women put down Toulon-esque marker