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Spotlight on: Exeter Chiefs

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With the Premiership Women's Rugby fixtures now released, it's confirmed that Leicester Tigers' first game in the elite women's rugby competition in the world will be at Mattioli Woods Welford Road against Exeter Chiefs.

Exact date and kick-off time are still being confirmed, with the weekend of November 18 locked in. The two sides are also set to do battle in the final round of the preliminary stages of the Allianz Cup, also to be played at Mattioli Woods Welford Road, with tickets for this game on sale now.   

Taking place a mere three weeks before the opening weekend of the Premiership Women's Rugby season, the stage is set for a mouthwatering pair of matches to kick off the 2023/24 women's rugby season. 

This is set to be a bumper clash, a real litmus test for Leicester Tigers as they steel themselves to face one of the fiercest, most dangerous sides in all of women's rugby. Here, we put the spotlight on Exeter Chiefs. 

Last year's Premier 15's (now Premiership Women's Rugby) runners up, Chiefs have recently graduated from emerging power status to full-on Premiership powerhouses. 

A trajectory that will hopefully prove inspiring for Tigers, Chiefs were only formed in 2019 and joined the league a year later, in 2020.  

In their first season, 2020/21, the South-Coast club consolidated their position in the top flight with a 6th place finish and have successfully followed this up with back to back runners-up medals, finishing second in the league and on the losing end of the play-off final in both of the last two seasons.

There are parallels between the formation of both the Chiefs and Tigers: both sides turned to former Red Roses in order to get their programmes off the ground.

Chiefs first turned to England legends Susie Appleby and Amy Garnett, with the former set to be Head Coach, with the latter acting as her assistant; Tigers, of course, appointed Vicky Macqueen as Head of Women's Rugby in July 2021 and Macqueen has overseen the programme going from strength to strength in the two years since. 

Many attribute the basis for their rapid success to their stellar recruitment strategy, with USA imports such as prop Hope Rogers and versatile back-row, and now Trailfinders Women-bound, Kate Zackary helping to form the bedrock of the team's success.

Tigers will be hoping their own American contingent of Tahlia BrodyTess Feury and Keia Mae Sagapolu will be able to add similar levels of dynamism and defensive grit and it'll be fascinating to see international prop compatriots Sagapolu and Rogers potentially go head to head in the scrum.  

New Tigers signing Georgie Grimes joins the club from the Chiefs and has witnessed their rise firsthand. When asked about the prospect of taking on her old club, Grimes said "Having been there from the start of their programme and their introduction to the Premiership three years ago, their recruitment has been excellent; they have bought some incredible international players in that have been a fountain of knowledge for the younger players in the squad".

It's a stylistic matchup sure to delight rugby fans of all ages, with both teams favouring an all court game packed to bursting with free-flowing, all action play.

The visitors love quick ball, undisputedly moreso than any other team in world rugby. Their average ruck speed in the 2022/23 season was just 2.67 seconds, which is 0.09 seconds quicker than the quickest mens team, Ireland at 2.76 seconds; 73% of all of their rucks result in the ball being played out within three seconds.  

Tigers fans are similarly accustomed to an all-out attack style of play. Although this is a style that will evolve with the step-up that comes from Championship to Premiership rugby, it's inarguable that a side that scored 866 points across the season will have a keen eye for the try line. 

With mercurial additions to the squad like fly-half/ centre Meg Jones set to take to the field for Tigers, supporters can look forward to some serious attacking rugby to kick-off the club's first ever season in Premiership Women's Rugby. 

When asked about what the visitors would bring, Grimes added "A player that stands out for me is Merryn Doidge she manages the back field very well and is one of those players you constantly hear, always talking as well as having several moments of magic up her sleeve where she's been able to create something from nothing".

"The standard that's demanded from both players and staff is very high, demonstrated by the success they have had in the last two years, with back to back Allianz Cup titles and two Premiership finals".

Tickets to our first game of the 2023/24 season are on sale now!

Our Allianz Cup fixture against Exeter Chiefs is confirmed for Saturday, October 28 (kick-off: 2pm).

Our first home games of the Premiership Women's Rugby season, with another huge matchup against Exeter Chiefs (w/e 18 November) and a local derby with Loughborough Lightning (w/e 02 December) on the horizon, will be confirmed shortly. Please check back on our social channels and LeicesterTigers.com for more information.