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New year, new world-class facility—but the same one-team atmosphere at Bristol Bears.
Amber Reed’s Allianz Premier 15s side relocated to the club’s new High-Performance Centre over the summer, and the co-captain is already seeing dividends since they’ve moved into their new home.
And for Reed and head coach Dave Ward, the payoff of training under the same roof as the men goes far beyond the very tangible benefit of access to top-notch equipment.
Reed said: “For me, having had lots of experience at lots of different facilities, this is world-class and everything we need to be the best we can be is all in one place.
“We have access to the gym, being able to get the whole squad in there and train together is massive, but also having the barn to do our skills sessions and it’s right on top of each other, so we can flow seamlessly from one to the other.
“But it’s also being in that environment that’s shared with the men as well, sharing resources, sharing ideas, both from the coaching and staffing level but also the players’ perspective.
“And for us being able to go into the meetings and learning from each other, what we can learn from them and also what they can learn from us has been amazing.”
Bears face Exeter Chiefs at home for their first contest, also the opening act of the 2021-2022 Allianz Premier 15s season.
The league will once again be played over 18 rounds, culminating with play-offs (21 May 2022) and a title final (4 June 2022, venue TBC).
— Allianz Premier 15s (@Premier15s) September 3, 2021
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.
Tight score-lines characterised both meetings of Chiefs and Bears last term, Bears winning the first encounter 22-24 before Exeter answered back with a 31-27 win in Bears country.
“Every game is going to be competitive and that’s going to be no different on Saturday,” said Reed.
“It will be which team can work each other out because we’ve got no footage to look through to know what they bring, so which team can be smart enough on the day to work the other one out and which one can impose their game quickest.”
Last season Bears were part of a pioneering partnership with Sports & Wellbeing Analytics which saw players wearing microchipped mouthguards to track and monitor impact to players’ heads during training and matches.
This season, the Allianz Premier 15s will become the first domestic women’s league to introduce the Head Injury Assessment (HIA), supported by real-time video review provided by Hawkeye, important in managing head impacts where the diagnosis is not immediately apparent.
“I think it’s really important moving forward that things like that are developed for the players’ safety,” added Reed.
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 Premier15s.com throughout the 2021/22 campaign.