RFU awards three England Women with full-time professional contracts

Photo by David Rogers - RFU/The RFU Collection via Getty Images

England Women internationals Emily Scarratt, Natasha Hunt and Jess Breach became the first players to be awarded full-time professional contracts for the 2019 season, the Rugby Football Union (RFU) announced on Thursday.

The trio will transition from the England Rugby Sevens to the England Women's 15-a-side from Jan.1. with Breach returning to former side Harlequins while Hunt and Scarratt join Gloucester-Hartpury and Loughborough Lightning respectively.

All three represented Team England in the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia, where they secured a bronze medal.

"These world-class players bring a wealth of talent and experience into the XVs programme," England Women head coach Simon Middleton said in a statement.

"We know that it can take time to transition back but we look forward to seeing them in camp in the new year, when we will be in a position to announce the full squad.

"This is a really exciting year for England Women and we can't wait to get underway in January ahead of the 2019 Six Nations."

The trio also represented Team GB Sevens during the 2016 Olympics in Rio where they missed a place on the podium and finished in fourth position.

"This is a great opportunity for Emily, Jess and Natasha who are three very talented players and while we are obviously disappointed to see them go, we respect their decision and they have our full support," said Head of England Sevens, Simon Amor.

The RFU had previously announced plans to award full-time contracts to England Women's XV players in September.

England's squad will hold their first camp at Bisham Abbey National Sports Centre on Jan. 4, ahead of the 2019 Women's Six Nations which gets underway against Ireland in Dublin on Feb. 1.

Information from Reuters was used in this report.