Susie Appleby was only named head coach of Gloucester-Hartpury Ladies last year, but she already has bold ambitions for the club.
It was only six months ago that Hartpury College director of sport Phil de Glanville, in conjunction with Gloucester Rugby, put the squad together.
However, they are already making big strides, having reached the semi-finals of the Women’s National Junior Cup – due to be played at Kingsholm on March 7, straight after Gloucester host Northampton Saints.
The stadium will also host Gloucester-Hartpury Ladies on April 25 after the Aviva Premiership Rugby game with Newcastle Falcons, giving the Kingsholm faithful more than one opportunity to catch them in action.
Women’s rugby is on a high at the moment with England winning the World Cup last year and the Sevens squad earning professional contracts for the first time, and Appleby admits the club is enjoying riding on the crest of this particular wave.
“It was fantastic timing because the girls won the World Cup in August and on the back of that we have formed a new club,” she said.
“Gradually we have built and built and now we have about 30 players in the squad.
“They are all of different abilities, ages and experiences so it’s kind of just teaching them the game and playing any opposition we can, but the World Cup was definitely inspiring for women to come into the game generally.”
The launch of the team coincides with Premiership Rugby’s Rugby4All programme, backed by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), to increase the number of women and girls involved in the sport and to promote the game among Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) groups.
The new programme will also provide 7,200 secondary school girls with the chance to play rugby, and support more than 400 female players to join local rugby clubs. In addition, 480 teachers and volunteers will be trained to support the growth of girls rugby.
Gloucester-Hartpury Ladies have only been playing friendlies this year as they attempt to prove their sustainability to the league, but they have the ultimate aim of establishing the club in the Women’s Premiership.
While having experienced players at the core, the club have also established a conveyor belt of youth prospects through their AASE Programme, an elite 16-18 year-old programme for girls on their way to senior rugby.
This, coupled with their commitment to their long-term goals, should see Gloucester-Hartpury Ladies battling their way up the leagues in the very near future.
“It’s a brand new team,” added Appleby, who was capped 65 times by England. “We have been playing friendlies this year but I want to target harder games towards the end of the season so I can say ‘please don’t put us in the very bottom league’.
“The reason for this is that there are a lot of cancellations with teams pulling out and I don’t want my girls to have teams pull out on them on a Friday so I’m looking to go the next tier up.
“From there it would realistically be about three years if we went straight through the leagues and hit the Premiership.”
To find out more about the Rugby4All project being run by Premiership Rugby and EHRC see is https://www.premiershiprugby.com/rugby4all