The RFU has released the following statement through its director of professional rugby Nigel Meville following the news that most of the England women squad will not have their professional contract renewed after the World Cup.
The full statement read: “The RFU has made a multimillion pound investment in women’s rugby in the last three years and that investment increases year on year. Our record investment applies not just to the elite game but also to the community game.
“The RFU announced the first professional women’s contracts following the Women’s Rugby World Cup in 2014 – these were Sevens contracts to prepare for participation in the Olympic Games in Rio.
“The women’s game works in cycles between the 15s and sevens programmes and as a result next year there will be 17 professional, full time fixed-term sevens contracts to prepare England to compete in the two big global tournaments on the horizon – the 2018 Rugby World Cup Sevens and the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
“Contracts will then revert to 15s contracts again to prepare for the next big global tournament – the Women’s Rugby World Cup (15s)
“This season the RFU’s investment in the elite women’s game will continue to increase, including an annual £800,000 investment into a new women’s domestic competition to improve the 15s player talent pool. The Women’s squad were always aware that contracts would end in September, after the World Cup.
“The current 15s squad was informed in April that the next contracts will be focused on sevens, reflecting the cyclical nature of the women’s game. The squad fully understands the position and are focussed on the World Cup in Ireland next month.”