Harlequins Ladies prop Vickii Cornborough is confident going into the first-ever Tyrrell’s Premier 15s final against Saracens Women at Ealing Trailfinders on Sunday April 29.
The newly-formed league has been hugely positive and both teams have enjoyed successful inaugural seasons, beating each other away from home.
Harlequins won the old premiership title last year but Cornborough doesn’t think there is any added pressure on the defending champions.
She said: “Obviously this is the first year Quins have officially been part of the Tyrells 15s so it’s almost like a blank state.
“Given our performances last year and having won the title we came into this wanting to retain it so to back up our performances by getting to the final is a huge tick in the box but it’s all down to Sunday.
“Whether we are putting more pressure on ourselves, I don’t think so, the expectation we put on ourselves drives our performances and hopefully the silverware will come as a result.”
The Tyrells 15s trophy was set up to improve the standard of women’s rugby across the country with an A league to supplement it and bring through aspiring talent.
This, combined with Harlequins’ Switch initiative, a foundation programme aimed to inspire girls to play rugby, has created a ground-breaking season full of changes and quality.
Cornborough added: “You’ve got over 1,000 girls that are part of these programmes now and it encourages them to keep playing and that’s how you nurture and get talent to become the future of women’s rugby.
“You’ve got other nations coming over because they recognise that England is now at the forefront of the women’s game, you’ve got Kiwis, Australians, Irish, Welsh coming over to play their domestic rugby in England because they recognise how progressive it is.
“I’ve been blown away by it.”
Harlequins Ladies and Saracens Women find themselves in the final and have been the dominant forces throughout the campaign, they are some of the few clubs linked directly to the men’s teams in the league.
Cornborough doesn’t think this is a coincidence and believes this plays a large role in on pitch performance across the length of a season.
She said: “Being linked to a men’s club like Quins, we train at the same location, same medical facilities, same training facilities. Men’s coaches have come down and male players have done specialist sessions, for example Joe Marler came down and did a scrum session with us.
“This has been happening with our squad for a number of years now and being surrounded by that for me as a player and us as a club really lifts you and pushes you on to be that better player on the pitch.
“It’s about player management, injury management, if you’ve got the best facilities, the best medical support, then nine times out of ten you’re going to be a better team at the end of it.
“Having all those resources available to you, instead of starting from scratch, you’re already onto a winner, it must be a real struggle for other clubs who aren’t linked in the same way.”
Proof of this is how clubs fare during the Six Nations, and with five Quins players in the England squad strength in depth is needed to maintain a domestic campaign.
Cornborough puts the increase in talent and depth down to the work the RFU have been doing with the leagues as well as Quins’ hard work in player development.
She said: “The whole point of this league is to develop these players and unleash talent that may have been overlooked in the past.
“In just the first season the standard has increased so much, just imagine what we can achieve in the coming years.
“I applaud the RFU for having the vision to set something up like this and for the clubs to buy into it.”
Women’s rugby has never been so successful, and Sunday’s final will showcase some of the best talent our domestic teams have to offer with England internationals all over the pitch.
In a season that has seen attendance records broken, with the west London derby between Harlequins and Richmond, and an exciting competitive league, women’s rugby is most certainly on the up.
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