England Women’s Sevens players will be professional athletes after signing full-time contracts with the Rugby Football Union for the upcoming season.
On the back of the fabulous World Cup win over Canada in Paris, there is further good news for the future of the women’s in this country with a squad of 20 players competing on the IRB Sevens World Series circuit and seeking qualification for Great Britain for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
The squad – including 12 Women’s Rugby World Cup winners – will train five days a week (excluding tournament time) at Twickenham Stadium and Surrey Sports Park in Guildford.
The all-encompassing programme, led by Head Coach Simon Middleton and the RFU’s Head of Women’s Performance Nicola Ponsford, will also include strength and conditioning, medical, nutritional, lifestyle and psychological support.
Players will be awarded the central contracts on a yearly basis and they will still be expected to play international XVs and Premiership rugby.
England’s World Cup winning captain Katy Mclean said: “This is fantastic news for the sport and exactly what we need as an England squad to continue to be at the top of our sport on a global scale. I am extremely excited about this new challenge and where this full time programme can take us as an England team.”
Ponsford added: “We are really excited by the opportunity and feel that this will enable us to compete on a global level.
“The inclusion of Sevens in the Olympics has meant that a significant number of sides we are competing against have been full time for a year or more. We have been planning to do this for some time but we needed to make sure that we could focus on the 2014 Rugby World Cup while also ensuring we had the building blocks in place to guarantee that a full time programme is effective.
“With two years to go until the Olympics we felt this was the right time to move forward.”