The Rugby Football Union (RFU) is to introduce women’s full-time 15s contracts this season underlining its commitment to the long-term growth of women’s rugby.
Following its meeting on Wednesday, the RFU Board supported the proposal to introduce women’s contracts for the 15-a-side game.
There will be 28 full-time contracts available to England Women, which will come into effect on 1 January. The Quilter Internationals will be played under the existing elite player squad (EPS) agreement.
The 28 contracts will be supplemented by seven EPS agreements, meaning a total EPS of 35.“It is our ambition to be world number one and drive growth at every level.”
“We are delighted to be able to offer full-time contracts to our 15s players,” said RFU chief executive Steve Brown.
“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.”
The move will continue to drive standards in the game both at a domestic and international level with all England players eligible to play for their clubs in the Tyrrells Premier 15s competition, returning to the RFU for England duties.
With immediate effect, the squad will be based at Bisham Abbey National Sports Centre during core periods, providing a permanent base within a high-performance training centre.
Brown added: “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. As an organisation, from top to bottom, we are very much behind this and want to see the continued expansion and growth to realise the ambitious targets we have set ourselves.”
Under its women and girls strategy, the RFU plans to double the number of participants by 2021, increase the number of women’s teams by more than 75% to 800, the number of active women’s clubs to more than 400 and get more women involved in the sport as referees, coaches and volunteers.
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.
“Bisham Abbey is a world class training facility and it’s a great opportunity to have a permanent base and use of their facilities.”