World Cup winners given England contracts
A week on from ending a 20-year wait for a second Women’s Rugby World Cup success, 12 members of England’s victorious side are among 20 players awarded central contracts by the Rugby Football Union for the national Sevens squad.
Katy Mclean, Emily Scarratt, Claire Allan, Natasha Brennan, Heather Fisher, Marlie Packer, Danielle Waterman, Natasha Hunt, Alexandra Matthews, Kat Merchant and Kay Wilson are all part of the first squad to be handed Sevens contracts.
The programme will see the contracted players train five days a week throughout the season at Twickenham and Surrey Sports Park in Guildford, where they will receive strength and conditioning, medical, nutritional, lifestyle and psychological support.
England were the only core team on the 2013/14 IRB Women’s Sevens World Series without some type of programme and will hope this development will give them a boost in the coming season as they attempt to qualify Great Britain for Rugby Sevens’ debut at the Olympic Games 2016 in Rio.
“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,” said Mclean. “I am extremely excited about this new challenge and where this full time programme can take us as an England team.”
The programme will be run by England Sevens coach Simon Middleton and RFU Head of Women’s Performance Nicola Ponsford, with central contracts to be awarded on a yearly basis and not prevent players from playing Fifteens and club rugby.
“We are delighted to be able to offer a full-time Sevens programme for next season. We are really excited by the opportunity and feel that this will enable us to compete on a global level,” said Ponsford.
“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 Fifteens Rugby World Cup whilst 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 2016 Olympics Games we felt this was the right time to move forward.”
England finished fourth in the 2013/14 Series behind champions New Zealand, Australia and Canada. The Series will be expanded in 2014/15 to six rounds with Dubai, Brazil, USA, Canada, London and Amsterdam between December and May.
England Sevens contracted squad
*Claire Allan, *Natasha Brennan, *Rachael Burford, Abigail Chamberlain, *Heather Fisher, Francesca Matthews, Sarah McKenna, *Katy Mclean, *Marlie Packer, *Emily Scarratt, Michaela Staniford, *Danielle Waterman, Joanne Watmore, Amy Wilson-Hardy, *Natasha Hunt, *Alexandra Matthews, *Katherine Merchant, Leanne Riley, Emily Scott, *Kay Wilson
*Denotes WRWC 2014 winner