Women’s Premier League prepare for turning-point season in 2023

With the Women’s Premier League (WPL) season kicking off in April, athletes and teams are ramping up into the performance stretch of and expected busy spring for the league.

Going into a restructured schedule, the WPL is the next step for development of women’s rugby domestically with a goal of offering opportunities to play on strong teams with the best coaches and high performance competitions. Announcing the 2023 schedule last month, the WPL will now compete in a two window expanded competition across both the spring and fall.

Breaking through the Pacific Four Series international window in July, the match schedule will expand from 10 to 14 weeks, offering more match time and seasonal opportunities for players and fans to engage the WPL.

Fresh off the Rugby World Cup player pool in New Zealand, Erica Jarrell, playing for Beantown RFC, provided insight on her club’s preparations as they build into the upcoming season kick off on April 15.

“We have had two skill sessions per week and they’ve had good turnout,” said Jarrell, “We are starting from a more advanced level than last winter, hoping for player retention and to build on skill sets.”

WPL teams and administrators are aiming to elevate the infrastructure of the league this year, continuing the “Ignite the Change” initiative that will support and build towards a sustainable professionalization model in the future. With the growing trend of capped

USA Eagles heading overseas to develop under full time high performance environments, it became clear to League leadership that advancements are needed back at home in order to offer the same opportunities domestically.

“There are insanely talented and dedicated athletes across the WPL,” said Sam Luther, USA Rugby athlete, and long time player and WPL Director, “They deserve a platform to grow and develop regardless of their National team aspirations. The game holistically in the US deserves a strategic growth plan. We as WPL leaders are the subject matter experts in the Women’s game, and who better than us to elevate our players and build a stage here at home deserving of their talent and sacrifice.”

This week in Colorado, World Rugby is meeting with USA Rugby to work on the next phases of Project Accelerate. Project Accelerate is a targeted initiative by World Rugby to fast-track the development and performance programs of the women’s game in high potential unions, like the United States. World Rugby leadership across high performance, participation and commercial engaged in a series of in depth workshops with USA Rugby high performance and community management to take a holistic look at the next 10 years, in lead up to LA28 and Rugby World Cup 2033.

With the women’s international competition structure laid out through the Pacific Four Series and WXV, along with an expanded HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series slated to being next year, USA Rugby will work with World Rugby to develop specific growth metrics and investments in player pathways for the Women’s fifteens and sevens programs.

Important to the player pathway discussions, the WPL continues to be part of the dialogue with the same objective noted by Luther, developing a professional high performance 15s environment for top women’s rugby talent on US soil.

The women’s game continues to show hallmarks of growth globally, most recently seen at the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand. The Black Ferns played in a sold-out Eden Park, setting all new benchmarks for women’s rugby support, and expectations the United States will look to meet and exceed with Rugby World Cup 2033 on the horizon.

Jarrell added, “In addition to improving our national team performance, high-level domestic women’s rugby is important for visibility of successful female athletes, various body types and proud queer identities for younger players and fans to look up to and strive toward, even if they do not have personal dreams to play internationally.”

The 2023 WPL Season kicks off April 15, be sure to follow all the team social media channels for the latest updates and info on match replays, attending matches and supporting the clubs.