Rugby: Saracens Women start title defence at Bristol

Saracens Womens' Poppy Cleall (pic: Paul Harding/PA)

Saracens Womens' Poppy Cleall (pic: Paul Harding/PA) - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Saracens Women will begin the defence of their Tyrrells Premier 15 title with a trip to Bristol Bears on the weekend of September 21-22.

Fixtures for the third year of the competition were released by the RFU today, with teams battling it out over 18 rounds once more, before play-offs and a grand final on May 30.

With no promotion or relegation last season as was the case in the inaugural competition, there are no changes to the 10 teams within England's top flight of women's domestic rugby, operating in a league format with home and away fixtures.

As with last season, the top four teams will play their semi-final over one leg, hosted at the respective grounds of the first and second ranked team after the conclusion of the regular season.

RFU Head of Women's Performance Nicky Ponsford said: "We've witnessed continued progress over the first two campaigns and know we're in for another exciting seven months of rugby.

"We've seen some player movement in the off season so we are expecting the competition to be even tighter than it was last year which is great for all of us and really underlines how competitive the league has become .

"Last season, the standard of the league was fantastic and it was great to see so many players go on to represent the Red Roses and perform on the international stage.

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"It's a real whole-game effort and we are very much looking forward to continuing our work with clubs to help grow the women's game."

Tyrrells' Marketing Manager Sarah Lawson added: "We are incredibly proud of our partnership with the RFU, and to be sponsoring the inaugural elite women's rugby competition, Tyrrells Premier 15s.

"The past season has been fantastic with the introduction of the ground-breaking pro-contacts for the England Women's team; a positive step that has changed the landscape of women's rugby for the future.

"We are determined to continue helping the RFU increase participation and interest in the women's game and encourage greater numbers of spectators to attend women's matches.

"As another iconic English brand, we have built a great relationship with the RFU and look forward to the season ahead and taking the game to new heights."

Saracens Women fixtures: Bristol Bears (Sept 21-22); RICHMOND (Sept 28-29); Loughborough Lightning (Oct 5-6); WORCESTER WARRIORS (Oct 12-13); Firwood Waterloo (Oct 19-20); GLOUCESTER-HARTPURY (Oct 26-27); Wasps (Nov 30-Dec 1); DMP SHARKS (Dec 7-8); Harlequins (Dec 14-15); Richmond (Dec 21-22); LOUGHBOROUGH LIGHTNING (Jan 11-12); Worcester Warriors (Jan 18-19); FIRWOOD WATERLOO (March 21-22); Gloucester-Hartpury (March 28-29); WASPS (April 4-5); DMP Sharks (April 11-12); HARLEQUINS (April 18-19); BRISTOL BEARS (April 25-26).

Home matches in CAPITALS.