Premier 15s: Worcester Valkyries target first league win as second season begins

By Sara OrchardBBC Sport
Worcester Valkyries v Richmond
Worcester Valkyries (in blue and yellow) lost 17 and drew one of their 18 league games in 2017-18

When you are an England international and you finish a club season without any wins, other clubs inevitably start sniffing around to see if you are available.

"There were options for me but I felt like Worcester Valkyries were still the place for me to be and it was the right choice for me to stay here," said England hooker Lark Davies.

Just five years ago, Worcester won the old Women's Premiership and in the process broke up Richmond and Saracens' dominance of the top women's honours.

However, as the league evolved into the Premier 15s, a raft of top players such as England prop Rochelle Clark left and maintaining a consistent squad blighted by injury and staff changes proved difficult. The bottom of the table beckoned.

But with big names back to the club, including England wing Lydia Thompson, positivity has returned and a first win in the Premier 15s is high on the Valkyries' agenda this season.

"It would mean so much, to first and foremost put in a good performance, but to get the win would be fantastic and top off what was a really difficult season last year."

If the team's determination to turn things around for the 2018-19 campaign needed to be tested, their season ended in April and their pre-season started in May.

'Hopefully we'll go from strength to strength'

Head coach Roy Davies has put the team through gruelling fitness sessions to improve the squad, described by captain Davies as "awful sessions where your team-mates have to pick you up off the floor".

There was also a team-building weekend away at Bridge North, where the team were dropped off in the middle of nowhere, with no tents and had to build their own accommodation for the night.

Although plenty of work is being done off the field, plenty of work was put into strengthening the Valkyries' squad. Along with the return of Thompson, England prop Laura Keates is also back after a season out injured.

Stacey Maguire and Lisa Campbell have also been persuaded to return to add much-needed experience.

Although they finished bottom of the pile last season, Worcester benefit from the Rugby Football Union's decision to ring-fence the league for three seasons.

Davies is keen to not waste the opportunity, saying: "Worcester has a big history and it would have been such a shame to see everything we have worked for just be taken away.

"The three years gives us time to rebuild and learn and I think last year showed we need that time.

"It was a difficult season but hopefully we'll go from strength to strength. I think we're going to close the scorelines down massively as we have the opportunity to show we are a Premier 15s club."

Worcester Valkyries' opening match is at Darlington Mowden Park Sharks on Saturday, 8 September.

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