Saracens may have clinched top spot, and a home semi-final, with two games to go, but there are still five teams vying for the three other knock-out places. Included amongst them are Bristol Bears, who are expecting a crowd of more than 3,000 at Ashton Gate for their home clash with Harlequins.
The Bears were the early pace setters in the league until Saracens took their unbeaten run at the StoneX Stadium. Quins are the reigning champions and currently sit in fourth place.
That means they would have to travel to Saracens in the semi-finals, so the incentive is there to try to climb higher. The Bears have included five Welsh stars in the starting XV and have a further three on the bench.
Kayleigh Powell, Courtney Keight and Jasmine Joyce form the back three, while Keira Bevan, the Welsh try scorer against Italy last week, is at scrumhalf. Alisha Butchers is another of the 11 inernatoinals that Bears coach Dave Ward is able to welcome back and he also has Wales skipper Siwan Lillicrap, Hannah Johnes and Natalia John on his replacements bench.
“It has been a long six weeks with Wales in the Six Nations, but it is nice to be back with the Bears. It is going to be great playing at Ashton Gate and my parents have taken a hospitality box for the day because it’s my Dad’s birthday,” said Butchers.
“We gained a lot of belief in ourselves during the Six Nations and we went into the games more confident that we had been. We were disappointed with our defeats and there was a huge shift in mentality.”
The Bears currently hold a three point lead over Exeter Chiefs, who they visit in Round 18, and a four point advantage over Quins. Just behind them come Wasps and Loughborough Lightning, who will have to win both of their remaining matches to stand any chance to breaking into the top four.
Top of the league Saracens head to Exeter, newly crowned Premiership Cup winners, and have Wales hooker Kat Evans on the bench. Donna Rose, who had such a good Six Nations for Wales, is given a break.
Gloucester-Hartpury will have a strong Welsh contingent in their side for the home clash with Wasps. Kerin Lake, Lisa Neumann and Lleucu George feature in the back division, while up front Cara Hope, Kelsey Jones, Cerys Hale and Bethan Lewis all feature. Included among the replacements is Sisila Tuipulotu.
Allianz Premier 15s Final Fixtures
Saturday, 7 May
Exeter Chiefs v Saracens
Gloucester-Hartpury v Wasps
Sale Sharks v DMP Durham Sharks
Worcester Warriors v Loughborough Lightning
Bristol Bears v Harlequins Women
Saturday, 14 May
DMP Durham Sharks v Gloucester-Hartpury
Exeter Chiefs v Bristol Bears
Loughborough Lightning v Harlequins
Saracens v Wasps
Worcester Warriors v Sale Sharks