Katy Daley-McLean Interview: Weekends like this add to the all-round growth of the game

Katy Daley-McLean is one of many who is looking forward to the Premiership Women's Rugby action
©RFU Collection via Getty

Allianz Premiership Women’s Rugby takes centre stage this weekend with four huge games all being televised.

Speaking to TRU, former England and World Cup winning captain Katy Daley-McLean said: “I think it’s massive. Previously when you would have talked about women’s rugby, you’d have talked about internationals only and the fact it’s the league just shows the rise and the way it’s been framed as the ‘SuperPWR Weekend.’

“The brand of the league is really strong so it’s a great opportunity for the girls to go and showcase that.”

It all kicks off on Saturday afternoon with arguably the biggest game of the weekend between table-toppers and unbeaten Gloucester-Hartpury and third-placed Exeter Chiefs Women, a re-run of last year’s final.

Either side of the Chiefs in the standings are Saracens (2nd) and Bristol Bears (4th) with Daley-McLean adding: “We can probably say now that the top four is set. It would be very difficult for Loughborough to push into that now so it’s all about placing [for home semi-finals].

“You’d argue Gloucester and Saracens have secured those one and two positions and now it’s Exeter and Bristol fighting it out for three and four. We know no team has ever won a semi-final away from home so those one and two spots are big.

“This is a huge game for Exeter (who are currently five points behind Saracens) as Gloucester will be sitting comfortably, especially after beating Bristol a couple weeks ago, so it’s Exeter’s to take as ultimately Bristol and Exeter have to win everything to challenge for those top two spots.”

Bristol, themselves, take on Ealing Trailfinders at 5pm on Saturday, a team that is new to the PWR for this season. Giselle Mather’s side sit seventh in the table with their three victories coming against the two teams below them in the standings, but they are only five points behind sixth-placed Harlequins.

Daley-McLean feels Ealing do play a ‘good brand of rugby even though they are in year one’  and on their opposition this weekend, she added: “There’s a lot of pressure building on Bristol at the moment.

“They went really well against Loughborough [last week winning 33-17], but if you hear Dave Ward [Bristol Bears head coach] speak, they are clearly targeting a top-two finish, but they haven’t beaten any of the three sides above them, so now he will know five-point wins are the minimum between now and the start of June.”

Another focus on this bumper weekend is Emily Scarratt, who last Friday returned from a neck injury which had kept her out for 13 months.

The 34-year-old played 48 minutes against Bristol Bears at Ashton Gate, and she could work her way into the plans of Red Roses head coach John Mitchell in time for the Women’s Six Nations which begins at the end of the month.

On her former teammate and good friend, Daley-McLean said: “She is one of the biggest faces of the women’s game and not just in England, but in the world and having players of her stature in the game is huge.

“We want to sell women’s rugby for the differences, and I think the stories of Emily’s and her return is a nice selling point for this weekend.”

Scarratt will start on Sunday for Loughborough Lightning when they welcome Sale Sharks Women to cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens while before that, Saracens host Leicester Tigers Women.

The continued growth of the Premiership is of course important for the game in this country, especially with a home World Cup on the horizon.

“It’s really important clubs build that fan base as hopefully post-World Cup, that is what we get in terms of crowds going to local games as well,” Daley-McLean added.

“The coverage we can give it and the more accessible we can make it for all young girls and boys, just people who enjoy rugby, the better and doing it like this when it’s live on TNT gives it more credibility.”

Four players to watch this weekend 

Alex Matthews - Gloucester-Hartbury

Alex Tessier - Exeter Chiefs 

Daisy Hibbert Jones -Loughborough 

Beatrice Rigoni - Sale Sharks 

Katy’s Predictions 

Gloucester-Hartpury vs Exeter 

Winner: Gloucester-Hartpury, but it will be close. 

Saracens vs Leicester Tigers 

Winner: Saracens will do a comprehensive job over Leicester 

Bristol Bears vs Ealing Trailfinders 

Winner: Bristol will win but it will be a closer game than you’d think 

Loughborough Lightning vs Sale Sharks 

Winner: Sale will just edge it 

Catch the #SuperPWR Weekend live on TNT Sports and streaming on discovery+, starting with Gloucester-Hartpury v Exeter Chiefs at 14:45 on Saturday 2nd March