Harlequins boss highlights Shaunagh Brown as key to title defence

HARLEQUINS Women will be going for back-to-back Allianz Premier 15s titles this season and boss Gerard Mullen believes they will be even stronger thanks to the form and fitness of tighthead prop Shaunagh Brown who has re-signed with the club.

After joining Quins at the beginning of the 2016/2017 season, it didn’t take long for Brown to win her first international cap as she made her England debut in 2017 against Canada. 

The Red Roses international, who has now featured 24 times for her country, had a 2020/21 season to remember, scoring nine tries and producing a player of the match performance in the Premier 15s final as Harlequins defeated London rivals Saracens Women 25-17 at Kingsholm Stadium in Gloucester.

And Mullen said: “She’s obviously a world-class player as everyone knows.

“She’s great around the squad and she brings fantastic energy. So, we’re very lucky to have Shaunagh. 

“She’s a big player for us and she brings a lot of impact and so yes, I’m looking forward to seeing her grow as a player, especially as she looks towards that World Cup with England. 

“We’re pretty happy with our pre-season; they probably had about six or seven weeks and the last three or four weeks we’ve had everyone back to build some continuity.

“We are happy with the levels of intensity that we’ve shown and we’re just looking forward to bringing it back to life now come the weekend. 

“I think we’re not going make any qualms about our ambitions – we want to go back-to-back, making sure we do that is the vision of a club and the vision within the women’s programme. 

“It’s not going to be easy as all the other teams are upping their game so we’ve got to do all we can to ensure we stay ahead of the pack and keep pushing the boundaries of the game. 

“I think especially when the competition in the league is increasing, we challenge ourselves to be the best we can be and stay true to our own standards.” 

LONDON, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 01: Lisa Cockburn of DMP Durham Sharks, Natasha Hunt of Gloucester-Hartpury, Claudia MacDonald of Wasps, Jodie Ounsley of Sale Sharks, Amber Reed of Bristol Bears holding the ball with Rachael Burford of Harlequins, Poppy Cleall of Saracens, Rachel Malcolm of Loughborough Lightning, Lyndsay O’Donnell of Worcester Warriors and Kate Zackary of Exeter Chiefs during the Allianz Premier 15s 2021-2022 Season launch at Twickenham Stoop on September 1, 2021 in London, England. (Photo by Barrington Coombs – RFU/The RFU Collection via Getty Images )

The competition will once again be played over 18 rounds, culminating with play-offs (21 May 2022) and a title final (4 June 2022, venue TBC).  

With no promotion or relegation, there are no changes to the 10 teams within England’s top-flight of women’s domestic rugby, operating in a league format with home and away fixtures. 

As with last season, the top four teams will play their semi-final over one leg, hosted at the respective grounds of the first and second ranked team after the conclusion of the regular season

“We know Loughborough,” said Mullen, speaking about Quins’ opening day opponents. “We lost to Loughborough last year and we know they’re a very strong outfit with some very good players. 

“We will have to be on our game to get the result but it’s more about where we are come the end of the season.

“Last year wasn’t straightforward and we had some tough times, which I believe made us stronger come the end of the season. 

“For us, it’s not about winning every game in a season – but definitely finishing in the top-four or top-two – and we want to save our best performances come the end of the season.”

The Allianz Premier 15s is the top-flight women’s domestic rugby union competition in England. For all the latest news from the Allianz Premier 15s, you can follow @Premier15s on Twitter and Instagram. You can also watch live action on throughout the 2021/22 campaign. 

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