By Will Jennings
Bryony Cleall's high-profile summer departure will not affect Saracens’ bid at banishing last season’s Allianz Premier 15s final demons, insists boss Alex Austerberry.
Powerhouse prop Cleall, 29, swapped Sarries for Wasps during pre-season to leave twin sister Poppy – a dynamic back-rower – a lone family raider at the StoneX Stadium.
Austerberry’s side reached the Premier 15s final last season but went down to a resurgent Harlequins 25-17 at Kingsholm.
Bryony Cleall was one of Sarries most potent weapons last term but boss Austerberry, whose side travel to Wasps for their campaign opener on Saturday, believes his team can adapt to life without the four-cap England international.
He said: “Bryony represented Saracens and put her body on the line for a long period of time, so all that time was very positive.
“With all the players that move on from the club, we wish them the best. They gave their heart and soul to the and Bryony wasn’t any different.
“There are some really strong takeaways as well the game against Loughborough in the semifinals and a really strong performance.
“We came up short in the final so it's just about those small margins and we've got to make sure we can establish our attacking play as well as some discipline stuff and some stuff around the breakdown.
“It was a tough end to the season but we're in sport to be challenged and to be the best we can be.
“There's nothing more exciting than the opening day of the season – you get to see exactly where you're at at the start of a new challenge where you're trying to achieve the goals that you set out.
“I'm absolutely buzzing for the start of the season and to see Poppy and the rest of the players in action.
“There is no better test than coming up against Wasps first off.”
The Allianz Premier 15s is the elite women’s domestic rugby union competition in England and having been won by high-flying Harlequins last season, continues to grow year on year.
The Premier 15s 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.
Fans will not flock back to Sarries’ StoneX Stadium until 18 September as Sarries travel to Wasps and DMP Durham Sharks for their opening two fixtures.
Most teams will get the chance to entertain their supporters in their first two games but Austerberry insists it will be firmly worth the wait.
Austerberry, whose side beat Loughborough Lightning 28-24 in last season’s semi-final, said: “For the Loughborough game, we had the biggest crowd of the season – it was a huge wall of noise, a big sound and you can't underestimate the impact that will have.
“Not just on us as a group – but as I'm sure Poppy will tell you, the players on the field as well.
“It just gets the momentum behind something – it's just truly special what the athletes and what the players are doing on the field.
“It’s unbelievable and the more eyes on it the better – the more people in the arena will just make it more special.”
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.