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Rugby News

Writing Chapter Two of a new history

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Homer’s ‘Odyssey’ is an epic in nearly every sense of the word. The poem is divided across a mammoth 24 books, which detail the journey undertaken by Odysseus. Odysseus’ adventures span endless oceans and far-flung, exotic lands and these journeys cannot be made without a fearless crew that encompasses experienced leaders and a fearless slice of youth. 

Over the next few months, the Leicester Tigers women’s team prepare to begin their own odyssey, a trepidatious voyage into the world of topflight rugby. This is chapter two of a new history.

Before setting a course across the uncharted, choppy waters of Premiership Women Rugby’s, the elite and most intense women’s league in the world, you need those at the helm who have navigated these seas before. Going into the 2023/24 season, the squad would be crucial.  

Who better to begin steadying the ship than Amy Cokayne, a player whose myriad of achievements, from the Premiership to the World Cup, speak for themselves. A legitimate world-class talent, the hooker is a leader in all aspects of the game, from the front of the scrum to the back of the rolling maul.  

This is a Greek Odyssey that, in a poetic flourish, will feature Olympians at the helm in Megan Jones and Celia Quansah, two women who thrive on the biggest stages of competition.

There are internationals joining who starred in the spring’s Six Nations such as Leah Bartlett, someone who has been at home in the top division since the Premier 15’s was first formed in 2017 and has played over 50 times at the highest level of the club game.

However, this is a squad that has tasted success already, with a raft of talent already within the ranks. Nearly all players involved in last year’s Championship North 1 triumph have signed contracts for next season and the management team believe that this continuity is vital for retaining the culture and team spirit established over the last year. 

A rising tide raises all ships and the introduction of such undisputed performers will boost the wider squad. Young front-row players like Samantha Williams and Churchy Knight are now training several times a week with established internationals, learning from the very best in the business, including from incoming set-piece coach Rochelle ‘Rocky’ Clark). 

The pathway, established last season with Lichfield, will also be a key part of the continued sustainability and success of the project and, alongside other partner clubs soon to be announced, will ensure that all of the squad will be out on the field, playing rugby and improving.

Finally, there are those coming in who are hungry to take the next step in their careers. Whether that’s those blue-chip prospects sailing over from Scotland or the United States who are aiming to show their talents in the world’s most elite league, those who haven’t had the opportunities at other clubs in the Premiership and believe they have more to give or even those, like many of the team from last year, who are relishing a chance at the top level. 

The balance of the squad is what determines the success of the women’s programme at Tigers: the burgeoning talent already within the ranks looking for a chance to shine at the top level, the young guns coming in who are only just beginning to establish themselves both domestically and internationally, veterans of the game who will add invaluable leadership and mentoring and a ‘sprinkle of stardust’ provided by some of the undisputed best in the world. 

The makeup of the squad does swing on the youthful side and this is a very deliberate decision, the management team prioritising ambitious individuals looking to be the catalyst that helps Leicester Tigers reach the top of the women’s game. Players who are aware of the values that define the club and of what success will mean to those who pack the stands at Mattioli Woods Welford Road

Lifelong Tigers like Amy Orrow and Natasha Jones recognise the responsibility of wearing the green, white and red stripes. The players who tasted success last year know the feeling of being roared on by thousands of fans and, equally, the importance of inspiring a young girl at a camp and helping them to love rugby. The squad must represent the Tigers family on the field and off of it. 

This is a long-term project, not one that is looking to bulldoze into the league and splash an obscene amount of money on a full XV of Red Roses and Black Ferns in order to guarantee success.   

Today is Day 1 of pre-season and it means that the squad can only get better from here. Every single individual who has joined this burgeoning project will grow and develop as a Leicester Tigers player. These are very exciting times for a team at the beginning of a new history.

Be with us to write a new chapter in what will be one hell of an adventure. 

Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll be examining the women’s programme at Leicester Tigers and how it has developed from year one to year two. This is a programme that for just over a year has been built from the ground-up and, consequently, each area has been analysed to the minutiae, from player and coach recruitment through to infrastructure and sportswear. Take a look as we begin Chapter 2 of a new history.