Sale Sharks were disappointed to learn of the club’s five-point penalty for failing to meet PWR EQP targets for Qualification Period 1 of the current season.

Sale Sharks co-owner Michelle Orange said: “While we wholeheartedly support the PWR and RFU in their desire to promote young, English talent, we have been clear from the outset that we feel that the best way for us to build a competitive side quickly – and develop local talent – is to bring in top quality, international players to inspire the next generation of young girls. 

“We know from the model applied to the men’s team, that signing Faf de Klerk directly led to the development of young, local, talented scrum-halfs such as Raffi Quirke, Gus Warr and Nye Thomas.  

“It’s tried and tested and it’s the approach we believe will give us the best chance of building a team to compete at the top end of the PWR. 

“To rely solely on EQP at this stage of the team’s growth would, we believe, be to the detriment of our wider plan to inspire the next generation, and that’s why we’re disappointed with the lack of flexibility around the rules governing the number of EQPs in matchday squads. 

“Despite that disappointment, everyone at the club will continue to work as hard as we possibly can to make sure that women and girls in the north of England have a pathway to play rugby at the highest level, a team they can be proud of and a team that will, ultimately compete for the biggest honours in the women’s game.” 

Sale Sharks Women Head of Performance Katy Daley-Mclean said: “We’re obviously really disappointed with the decision to impose the penalty.  

“We have taken an approach that we’ve been very open about, to build a squad over the longer term to achieve the EQP target. The start of the season has been challenging but the club is determined to work through this alongside PWR.  

“We know that EQP is important but we’ve always been clear that it’s not as simple as rolling out 13 EQP, especially as a relatively new northern team. This is a long-term project and we need support and patience.” 

A statement from the RFU reads:

Following the conclusion of Qualification Period 1, as defined in the Premiership Women’s Rugby Competition Regulations 2023-24, Leicester Tigers Women and Sale Sharks Women failed to achieve a minimum average of 13 English Qualified Players (EQP) in their match day squad. 

All PWR clubs signed up to the regulations prior to the start of the 2023-24 season. The deduction will take place automatically today and there is no right of appeal. This will not impact either club’s league position.   

The EQP principle has the full support of both the RFU and Premiership Women’s Rugby as part of its partnership to support the ambitions of the Red Roses, especially with the Women’s Rugby World Cup taking place at home in 2025.  

The RFU and Premiership Women’s Rugby (PWR) remain open to other countries, allowing access for their players into PWR to help support their development as they look to professionalise their own domestic leagues.

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