On September 18, 2022, Leicester Tigers women's team played their first ever competitive match, lead out by club captain, and childhood Tigers fan, Natasha Jones.
One year, two months and one day later, Jones is set to lead out the side once again, this time at the stadium she lined the terraces of as a young Tiger and in the side's first-ever match in Allianz Premiership Women's Rugby.
The journey of Leicester Tigers women up to this point has been, generally, one of success, with an unbeaten season in Championship North 1 last year offsetting a tough loss in the Championship play-off final.
Head of Women's Rugby Vicky Macqueen, the first appointment made in a journey that began in 2021, knows that this season the mindset must change.
"We're excited, enormously, by the prospect of playing the in the Premiership. It was our goal from Day 1 of me stepping foot in Mattioli Woods Welford Road and now that we could not be prouder of every player, coach, staff member, backer and supporter that has helped us get to this point.
"We have been defined by our 'next job' mentality and now that we find ourselves arriving at that first match, that next job is to raise ourselves to that Premiership level, to establish our style of play and to further our experience as a unit at the top level".
The match comes off the back of a difficult Allianz Cup campaign, which has seen the team learn the hard way the level that is required to compete in Allianz PWR.
"Myself and the whole coaching team have been very clear in our desire for continuous improvement. We don't expect instant results or for us to storm the league; our minimum standards are that we put in the hard graft at every single training session and that each time we step on that pitch we get a little better.
"The pre-season we had was deliberately intense: we wanted to push every member of our extended squad to go beyond their limits, to become the best possible version of themselves as players. The best fitness levels they have ever had, the best skill levels, we want them to push themselves because that is what it means to play for Leicester Tigers.
"We know the tough test that Chiefs will bring, we saw it three weeks ago. But what I've seen in those three weeks since that game are a squad of players who have worked their socks off for this moment and I couldn't be prouder that, whatever happens, they will have given their all for the shirt".
As well as Tash, there are a number of players set to run out at Mattioli Woods Welford Road that Tigers fans will be familiar with, with the likes of Ofure Ugiagbe set to extend her record for the most appearances in a Tigers shirt, while the likes of back-rowers Morgan Richardson and Roisin McBrien have been stalwarts throughout the side's time together, both accruing over 20 appearances for the club, the majority of them playing alongside one another.
Fans can also expect a plethora of players returning from international duty that are set to feature on Sunday, with potential for eight debutants at Mattioli Woods Welford Road.
These include starts for the likes of Meg Jones, co-captain of Team GB 7s team and coming back from a victorious Red Roses campaign in WXV 1, Francesca McGhie, recently nominated for World Rugby's Breakthrough Player of the Year after a stellar year for club and country that culminated with a victorious WXV 2 campaign for the Scots and Tahlia Brody, the USA international leading the tackle count across all three WXV competitions with 56 tackles made across just three games.
The visitors will welcome back their own share of internationals, including flyer Claudia Macdonald who represents the Red Roses. When they travelled up for the Allianz Cup fixture three weeks ago, the likes of scrum-half Brooke Bradley and flanker, and captain, Poppy Leitch showed their class and the South-Coast side will be hoping for more of the same this time around.
All in all, this fixture is set to be an amazing occasion. Not just for what it means for Leicester Tigers as a club but because supporters can expect a belting game of rugby.
- Allianz Premiership Women's Rugby, Round 1
- Leicester Tigers vs Exeter Chiefs
- Mattioli Woods Welford Road
- 3pm kick-off
Tickets are now on sale for Leicester Tigers' first ever Allianz Premiership Women's Rugby match, at home to Exeter Chiefs.
Help us make history in our first ever game at the elite level of women's rugby!
This match will take place at Mattioli Woods Welford Road, on Sunday, November 19 (kick-off: 3pm).
Come down and lend your support!