Women's Premier 15s: Covid testing brings 'peace of mind'

By Jo CurrieBBC Sport
Fleetwood has 76 England caps and was part of the 2014 Women's World Cup winning team
Fleetwood has 76 England caps and was part of the 2014 Women's World Cup winning team

Covid testing has brought "huge peace of mind" to players, says England and Saracens' Vicky Fleetwood.

Twice-weekly testing for all players and staff has been introduced to Women's Premier 15s teams mid-season.

The league restarts this weekend following a two week suspension aimed at helping to reduce the spread of the virus.

Previously, players were only tested if they showed symptoms.

"We were doing everything we could within Saracens to stick to the rules we'd been given by the RFU", Fleetwood told BBC Sport.

"We were filming all the sessions so if there was close contact with someone who tested positive then those people would have to self-isolate. That did happen a few times and that's why we had games called off.

"Definitely having those tests now has brought huge peace of mind."

'Raring to go' ahead of long awaited return

This weekend's match away at Exeter has been a long time coming for Fleetwood, who has not played since she tore her hamstring tendon in Saracens' opening game of the season on 10 October.

The flanker missed England's November internationals as a result of the injury.

"It was actually good just to take that time for myself, get everything sorted and watch the girls play", said the 30-year-old.

"But for the last month or so I've been fit and ready to play."

Saracens have won all their matches so far this season and are second in the table behind Harlequins, who have played a game more.

"Unfortunately, because of Covid, it's been against us. We've had multiple games cancelled so I'm raring to go this weekend," Fleetwood said.

Exeter Chiefs are in their debut season in the league and lie in fifth place, with four wins under their belt.

"They've got some really big ball carriers, they move the ball really well, move it out well and have got a lot of pace as well so hopefully we'll put on a good show," she added.

'Gutted' at Six Nations postponement

Fleetwood was part of England's World Cup-winning side in 2014 and is targeting a place in the squad at this year's competition in New Zealand.

England's preparations for the September tournament however have been disrupted after the 2021 Women's Six Nations' tournament was postponed until either spring or summer because of the pandemic.

"For me just wanting to play, I was quite gutted it had to be postponed but the fact that we will get that opportunity to play at some point, you've got to think about the bigger picture," Fleetwood, who has 76 England caps, said.

"We've got to do what's right for everyone, for the other countries involved I know some of them don't have the vaccine being rolled out the way we do."

The Women's Six Nations usually runs alongside the men's tournament but Fleetwood says there will be some positives from it being moved to a stand-alone competition.

"Potentially the media coverage that we'll get will be better so we're really looking forwards to playing at a different time.

"I know there's been a lot of chat over the last few years about whether it should be played at a different time and our hand's been forced so let's see how it goes." she added.

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