Allianz Cup : Round 1 - Preview

The Allianz Cup will kick-off on Friday
The Allianz Cup will kick-off on Friday

The upcoming weekend heralds the commencement of the Allianz Cup, with Exeter Chiefs launching their title defense against Worcester Warriors at the Sixways Stadium on Friday night.

In the previous season, the Chiefs clinched a commanding 29-19 victory over Saracens in the final showdown. Nonetheless, they'll be aiming to rectify their earlier group stage defeat to Warriors.

Pooling into Pool A alongside Warriors and Chiefs are Bristol Bears, Leicester Tigers, and Sale Sharks. Meanwhile, Pool B comprises Saracens, Harlequins, Gloucester-Hartpury, Loughborough Lightning, and Ealing Trailfinders.

With each round, two clubs will receive a 'bye,' meaning Bristol Bears and Trailfinders Women commence their campaigns next weekend. The pool stages will span September and October, leading to the Allianz Premiership Women's Rugby competition starting in November.

From these two Allianz Cup pools, playoff contenders will emerge, and in April, the quest for a new Allianz Cup champion will take center stage, with the teams ranked from 1 to 10.

Embracing their pursuit of a hat-trick of Cup triumphs, Chiefs' head coach, Susie Appleby, emphasizes the significance of performance alongside results.

"We want to win, but we know our performance is the most important thing each week," said Appleby.

"We just want to start the season well... It's all about performance and looking at ourselves as individuals, making sure we're improving as individuals, on and off the field."

Chiefs' Friday night opponents, the Warriors, seek to build on their impressive fifth-place finish from the previous Allianz Cup season. Head coach Jo Yapp has spotlighted England Under-18 hooker Lucy Calladine as a rising star to watch, stating, "It is exciting for a front-row player... It is going to be exciting to see what they do."

In Pool A, Leicester Tigers will debut in the Allianz Cup against Sale Sharks on Saturday, with Sharks aiming to surpass their fourth-place pool stage finish from last season.

Over in Pool B, last year's runners-up, Saracens, will embark on their campaign with a captivating London derby against Harlequins at StoneX Stadium. Saracens, who were unable to defend their Allianz Premier15s league title, are determined to secure silverware while nurturing emerging talents.

Head coach Alex Austerberry emphasized their drive, stating, "You're not in professional sport to come second... It would be brilliant to be sat there with two trophies in the cabinet instead of one."

Completing the Pool B fixtures, last season's semifinalists Gloucester-Hartpury will face Loughborough Lightning, who are eager to improve on their sixth-place finish from the previous season.