England Women announce 28 players on full-time contracts

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Professional progress is 'game-changing' for women's rugby - Hunter

England World Cup winners Katy Daley-Mclean, Sarah Hunter, Marlie Packer and Vicky Fleetwood are among the 28 players to be awarded full-time contracts for 2019.

In September, the Rugby Football Union announced it would reintroduce contracts for 15-a-side players.

Contracts were previously awarded based on the next major tournament.

In addition to the 28, seven players are on elite player squad agreements.

Those players will come into camps and England training, but not the full-time programme.

2017 World Cup finalists Sarah Bern, Rachael Burford, Vickii Cornborough, Abbie Scott and Lydia Thompson have also received contracts, as have Natasha Hunt, Emily Scarratt and Jess Breach who return to the 15s set-up from the sevens programme.

"I am confident that this group of players has the potential to grow into the world-class squad we will be looking to take to New Zealand in 2021," said head coach Simon Middleton.

"The introduction of full-time contracts will take time to embed but will unquestionably help us to accelerate the development process. This is a huge opportunity and we recognise the expectation that comes with the investment. It is now down to us as a management and playing group to meet those expectations."

The squad will meet for the first time on Thursday at its new base Bisham Abbey National Sports Centre, before three days of training start on Friday.

England's Women's Six Nations campaign begins against Ireland in Dublin on 1 February.

Squad

Forwards: Zoe Aldcroft (Gloucester-Hartpury Womens RFC), Sarah Beckett (Firwood Waterloo Ladies), Sarah Bern (Bristol Bears Women), Hannah Botterman (Saracens Women), Jo Brown (Loughborough Lightning), Rowena Burnfield (Richmond FC), Shaunagh Brown (Harlequins Ladies), Bryony Cleall (Saracens Women), Poppy Cleall (Saracens Women), Amy Cokayne (Wasps FC Ladies), Vickii Cornborough (Harlequins Ladies), Lark Davies (Worcester Valkyries), Vicky Fleetwood (Saracens Women), Sarah Hunter (Loughborough Lightning), Justine Lucas (Loughborough Lightning), Cath O'Donnell (Loughborough Lightning), Marlie Packer (Saracens Women), Ellena Perry (Saracens Women), Abbie Scott (Harlequins Ladies)

Backs: Jess Breach (Harlequins Ladies), Rachael Burford (Harlequins Ladies), Katy Daley-Mclean (Loughborough Lightning), Abby Dow (Wasps FC Ladies), Zoe Harrison (Saracens Women), Tatyana Heard (Gloucester-Hartpury Womens RFC), Natasha Hunt (Gloucester-Hartpury Womens RFC), Claudia Macdonald (Wasps FC Ladies), Sarah McKenna (Saracens Women), Leanne Riley (Harlequins Ladies), Emily Scarratt (Loughborough Lightning), Emily Scott (Harlequins Ladies), Kelly Smith (Gloucester-Hartpury Womens RFC), Lydia Thompson (Worcester Valkyries), Lagi Tuima (Bristol Bears Women), Carys Williams (Loughborough Lightning)

(Elite player squad agreements in bold)

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