The inaugural members of the Leicester Tigers squad to compete in next season’s Women’s Championship were introduced to supporters during Saturday’s Gallagher Premiership semi-final at Mattioli Woods Welford Road.
At half-time, members of the squad were presented to the 22,000-strong crowd as Tigers celebrated the team launch and the continued valued support of club partners Häfele and SAMURAI who have extended their relationship to support the women’s team, and Lichfield Rugby Club who have played a central role in the women’s rugby programme.
Vicky Macqueen, the club’s head of women’s rugby, said: “Just over a year ago [Leicester Tigers chief executive] Andrea Pinchen offered me the opportunity to drive the women’s agenda forward with the long-term goal of competing at the highest level.
“We quickly identified a partnership with Lichfield Rugby Club as the best route to enter the women’s game and we cannot speak highly enough of the players, officers and volunteers there who have made the first year of our partnership such a success.
“Throughout the season Tigers have run a full programme of coaching at Lichfield with the playing squad growing and growing as we went along.
“The focus has been on talent transfer from other sports and recruitment, with a real focus on encouraging disengaged former players and finding new players from outside rugby.
“There are now 101 players on the books across the Tigers/Lichfield development pathway and we expect this to rise to 120 by pre-season. Not bad when we started with just 12 at training back in September.”
This number will provide three teams within the current league structure, one Leicester Tigers and two Lichfield, with the possibility of a fourth team at Lichfield being launched if numbers continue to grow.
“Importantly, our work in the next year is designed to benefit more than just the Tigers squad, with trials and sessions with other clubs and university teams, and signposting for those who don’t make the elite squad to keep playing and stay in the sport,” added Macqueen.
The first names registered in the squad include back-rower Becky Noon and fly-half Tash Jones who provide some experience from the high levels of the game, while hooker Sam Williams has been part of the England Under-20s pathway and has coached alongside her playing commitments.
Up-and-coming talent includes Sharifa Kosolo and fellow back-rower Roisin McBrien who has been part of the Ireland extended set-up.
The full squad will be added to the Tigers club website this summer and look out for further updates on the squad soon.
Also at Saturday's game, the Leicestershire Women's team were presented to the crowd to show the Gill Burns trophy after being crowned County Champions at Twickenham on another big day for the women's game in the region.