Helena Rowland insists Loughborough Lightning are ready to come out fighting in order to find success in the inaugural Premiership Women's Rugby season, writes Sportsbeat's Joe Harvey.
Lightning have their sights set on improving on last term's eighth-place finish, with a trip to play-off regulars Saracens on opening day the perfect place to make a statement.
Saturday's opponents have finished in the top four on every occasion since the league's inception in 2017, with last year the first time the three-time champions missed out on the final.
By contrast, Lightning have been beyond the regular season just twice, tasting semi-final defeat on both occasions.
That's something England international Rowland is determined to put right this season under new head coach Nathan Smith, and the versatile back is confident the changes already made will pay dividends.
"It is very different from last year," Rowland said. "There have been some changes with how we want to play and how we approach it with a little bit more aggression.
— Premiership Women's Rugby (@ThePWR) November 15, 2023
"I think over the last few seasons we have been quite nice and played a brand of rugby that wasn't enough.
"Nathan has clearly bought that bit of fight and aggression within the squad that hopefully will be a good thing going forward."
Lightning opened the season with two wins and two losses in the Allianz Cup but are now bolstered by the return of their international stars, including Rowland, ahead of the start of the league campaign.
Rowland returns to the fold having played a key role in England's WXV 1 victory alongside Cath O'Donnell, while Lightning's five-strong Scottish contingent, including Chloe Rollie and Rachel Malcolm, also return with medals after clinching the WXV 2 title.
And Rowland hopes success in national colours will translate into winning rugby in the purple of Lightning, starting with Saturday's showdown at Saracens.
"It can only be a good thing that you have got a fair amount of players that are on a winning run and have got a bit of confidence," she added.
— Premiership Women's Rugby (@ThePWR) November 16, 2023
"That is going to help this season. You have got three of us returning from WXV 1, and the Scottish contingent coming back, that is a decent bulk of the squad, on top of some girls putting in performances in the Cup as well.
"Morale is pretty high and we are looking forward to getting into it.
"What better way to do it than against Saracens, who have been consistently strong. It should be a good first weekend.
"They are going to be out there with a point to prove, they have got some class players returning as well.
"There is no better way to test where you are than playing against one of the best teams in the league.
"We are definitely looking forward to the challenge and we are not going to take a backwards step."
Keep up with all the news from Premiership Women's Rugby at thepwr.com