Dave Ward is a man on a mission this season at Bristol Bears, hellbent on delivering success after his summer appointment as Women’s Head Coach ahead of the 2021/22 Allianz Premier 15s season.

The former hooker brings a wealth of experience, having made nearly 300 professional appearances at Harlequins, Northampton, Sale, Bath and Cornish Pirates – and the 35-year-old arrives in the West Country from Championship outfit Ampthill, where he has been a player-coach since 2019.

New year, new world-class facility—but the same one-team atmosphere, with Amber Reed’s Allianz Premier 15s side relocated to the club’s new High-Performance Centre over the summer.

And Ward said: “It has been fantastic in terms of the training we've got through.

“While we have implemented some new structures and game plans, we’ve moved to the High-Performance Centre, which is massive for us as a club and the buy-in from the girls has been brilliant. 

“I’m not sure you'll fine too many coaches who would say they've had a bad pre-season but for us, it's been extra special because of the move and the backing we’ve had. 

“I think it's really exciting to be a part of the Allianz Premier 15s, for one thing, the quality within it that we’ve recognised is fantastic – there are 10 very competitive teams and as we've seen last season, there are no easy victories.

“What I’m looking to bring is a bit of a fresh start for Bristol – we need to improve on our eighth position and the way we’re going to do that is unfortunately quite boring but working really hard, working together, sticking to our game plan and sticking to the process.” 

Bears face Exeter Chiefs at home for their first contest, also the opening act of the 2021-2022 Allianz Premier 15s season.  

It will once again be played over 18 rounds, culminating with play-offs (21 May 2022) and a title final (4 June 2022, venue TBC).  

With no promotion or relegation, there are no changes to the 10 teams within England’s top- flight of women’s domestic rugby, operating in a league format with home and away fixtures. 

As with last season, the top four teams will play their semi-final over one leg, hosted at the respective grounds of the first and second ranked team after the conclusion of the regular season. 

Ward added: “I think Amber summed it up in that it shows the development of the women’s game.

“I'm seeing girls who are coming through now who have been playing rugby for 10 years. There’s such an improvement and seeing girls who have played since they were seven or eight years old is massive for their rugby development.

“I’m also seeing the next generation being coached by the likes of Amber, being pushed through to bring that game on and up their skill set. 

“Anyone that comes to train at Bristol knows that we’ve got standards that we need to keep and certainly Amber and the other girls have been pushing them to do that and it’s a massive privilege for us to be at Bristol, pushing all those girls forward. 

“I think within the women’s game we need to get it out there even more, and the fantastic job that Allianz has already done just needs to be built upon because those are the foundations now for the next two, three, four years to come. 

“What a time to be involved in women’s rugby and what an exciting time it is.” 

The Allianz Premier 15s is the top-flight women’s domestic rugby union competition in England. For all the latest news from the Allianz Premier 15s, you can follow @Premier15s on Twitter and Instagram. You can also watch live action on Premier15s.com throughout the 2021/22 campaign.