Premier 15s returns with the Derby of West Country

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Domestic women’s rugby returns to kick off the new year this weekend with the Allianz Premier 15s.

As players are not tested for COVID-19 transmission, adjusted laws were introduced at the start of the season. During their mid-season review, the clubs, RFU medical personnel and performance directors agreed to keep these laws in effect.

Adjustments involve halves of 35 minutes to and the number of contacts with the ball and to minimize the risk of scrum on a free kick or penalty.

It was decided that no testing would take place because the league is not fully professional and has a mix of amateur and professional players.

However, Harlequins and U.S. international Kristine Sommer questioned the decision and called for more debate about the safety and welfare of players.

There were two matches scheduled to take place last weekend, but due to a positive COVID-19 test, the top match between Quins and Saracens was postponed.

And while the game was cancelled due to a frozen pitch between DMP Durham Sharks and Sale Sharks, both games have now been rescheduled.

On Saturday, there will be five games, beginning at Shaftesbury Park with the West Country derby when Bristol Bears host Exeter Chiefs.

As both teams have 17 points on the board, it will be a tight affair on the pitch – the Chiefs are in sixth place while the Bears are seventh on the back of a better differential in points.

The Chiefs signed a trio of international players before the game, with Irish winger Laura Sheehan and U.S. forwards Rachel Johnson and Joanna Kitlinski.

The Quins, who are already undefeated this season in the league and top the standings, will face third-placed Wasps.

In the second round, the last time the two teams met was when the South Londoners edged Wasps 31-12.

Saracens, who host ninth-place Sale Sharks, are another team hoping to continue their unbeaten streak.

With Canadian internationals Alysha Corrigan and Emma Taylor, the Sarries have signed two new players to their squad and expect to keep pace with Quins’ league leaders.

DMP Durham Sharks, who are bottom of the table without a single point, face Worcester Warriors, while Gloucester-Hartpury host Loughborough Lightning.

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