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Lichfield in shock as they miss out on Super league

Lichfield Ladies director of rugby Becky Williams reckons the RFU have made a “mistake” in excluding the “best club in the country” from the newly formed Super Rugby competition.

The West Midlands club, who celebrate their 25th anniversary this summer, were the only club from the current women’s Premiership to miss out when the new ten-team competition was announced.

Lichfield, who have in their ranks superstar Emily Scarratt and England scrum-half Natasha Hunt, are favourites with Bristol to win the Premiership this season but have seen the likes of Waterloo, Gloucester-Hartpury and Loughborough get the nod over them.

While Waterloo, leader of the Championship North, have a rich history in the women’s game the same cannot be said about Loughborough, who sit sixth in the Championship North and were beaten by Lichfield’s second team 24-0 in January.  Gloucester’s team was formed only three years ago and currently play in the third tier.

Speaking exclusively to The Rugby Paper Williams said: “This week has been the biggest emotional ride I’ve been on in my life. We found out late on Monday afternoon and the answer from the RFU was not what I was expecting to hear.

“We do support the creation of this new competition and we support the RFU for setting it up. We were desperate to get involved in it and we put in months of efforts to make sure we met what they wanted.

“We’re certain the RFU have made a mistake by not including us. But as painful as it is I want to remain as respectful as I can with the RFU and respect their decision. We’ve got the best club in the country and there wasn’t any sign that we weren’t going to make the cut. We met the criteria in full.

“We don’t agree with their decision and hopefully we’ll be given an opportunity to put our case forward.

“What we do on our own is already exceptional so imagine what we could achieve for women’s rugby if we had multi-million pound backing from the RFU.

“We had five players in the England Six Nations squad last weekend, three in Wales and two away on Sevens duties.”

Unless one of the ten teams fail to deliver on their promises, Lichfield are likely to have to wait until the start of the 2019/20 season to be promoted with RFU director of professional rugby Nigel Melville telling TRP the league will be closed for two seasons to allow teams to settle into the new competition while the financial backing is assured for at least three years.

He said: “It’s a new era for women’s rugby. We have never put that much money into the women’s game before. There were a number of teams that were very close but didn’t make it and Lichfield are one of those.

“All the bids went through the same process. All the teams had the chance to present their plan and the independent panel chose the ten successful teams.

“Some tough decisions had to be made but we are where we are.”

NICK VERDIER

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