Rugby Football Union chief executive Steve Brown hopes the introduction of new full-time professional contracts for England Women’s 15-a-side players will help them become the world’s best.
A year after drawing criticism for opting against renewing England Women’s 15-a-side contracts, the RFU has announced 28 full-time contracts will be available from the start of January 2019, along with seven elite player squad agreements.
All the contracted England players will be eligible to play for their clubs in the Tyrrells Premier 15s competition, returning to the RFU for international duties.
Following the 2017 World Cup, the England Women’s 15-a-side players controversially did not have their deals renewed, with the RFU switching its focus to sevens rugby. And in August the RFU awarded 17 full-time deals for sevens players heading into the new season.
RFU chief executive Brown is confident the new measures will stand England Women in good stead to challenge the world’s best.
“This has long been our ambition and demonstrates the RFU’s commitment to growing the women’s game and the belief we have in the future of the sport,” Brown said in a statement on the RFU website.
“We are at a tipping point for women’s rugby globally and it is our ambition to be world number one and drive growth at every level.
The England Women’s squad is to be based at Bisham Abbey National Sports Centre.
The RFU hope to double the number of participants in women and girls rugby by 2021, increasing the number of teams by more than 75 per cent.
RFU director of professional rugby Nigel Melville added: “As a union we want to lead the way for driving standards in women’s rugby through everything we do.
“Full-time contracts are a big step in ensuring we have the access to players to develop them and fulfil their potential.”