The 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-aside 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 EPS agreement.
The 28 contracts will be supplemented by seven elite player squad (EPS) agreements, meaning a total EPS of 35.
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 Bisham Abbey National Sports Centre during core periods, providing a permanent base within a high performance training centre.
RFU Chief Executive Steve Brown said: “We are delighted to be able to offer full-time contracts to our 15s players. 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.
“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 said: “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.”
O2, principal partner of the England team, Chief Marketing Officer Nina Bibby comments: “England Women’s Rugby is vitally important to O2 and seeing our logo on the England Women’s shirt when they step out to represent their country gives our customers and colleagues a huge amount of pride. We look forward to continuing to showcase and celebrate the national women’s game to the largest possible audience. It’s essential girls and young women growing up have the elite role models to look up to, who encourage them to pick up a rugby ball and get involved in the game we all love.”