England will award professional player contracts to their 15-a-side national team for the first time next season.
The sevens squad had been recipients of full-time contracts since 2014, but now the Rugby Football Union (RFU) will make 16 players full-time.
There will be another 32 short-term contracts on offer as the RFU continues its “ongoing commitment to the professionalisation of women’s rugby”.
A total of 48 contracts will be available next season, including 16 full-time deals that will concentrate on the sport’s 15-a-side element.
England Women first awarded contracts in October 2014, when 20 were given to sevens players only.
The new arrangement will also feature 16 part-time, three-day-a-week contracts with a sevens focus, with an additional 16 short-term deals that will allow players to attend residential camps ahead of major tournaments such as the World Cup and Six Nations, England Women announced.
It is all part of a drive towards England’s World Cup defence next year.
“This is a really exciting time for women’s rugby in England,” said RFU Head of Women’s Performance Nicky Ponsford.
“We will have more contracted players than ever before to give us the best possible chance of retaining the World Cup in Ireland next August.”
An additional 16 players will be handed part-time, three-day-a-week contracts with a sevens focus.
“We also recognise that the sevens’ programme is important again next year with the World Sevens series and qualification for Rugby World Cup Sevens in 2018,” added Ponsford.
“The girls have proven that they are among the best in the world, delivering consistent results across both the sevens and 15s games already this year, and we want to focus on building on that.”
The England Women elite performance squad of contracted players will be announced in September. The full-time contracts will come into effect from then with training based at Bisham Abbey, the current home of the GB women’s sevens squad.
Rugby Football Union chief executive Ian Ritchie added: ” The RFU is committed to supporting the growth of women’s rugby.
“We are immensely proud of England Women’s achievements, and we want to provide the best support to continue this success.
“More women and girls in this country are playing rugby than ever before, and England Women are important role models to encourage more people to try our sport.”