The Rugby Football Union has clarified how it pays elite women’s players following reports England contracts will not be renewed after the forthcoming World Cup.
The governing body has confirmed contracts for the 15-a-side game will expire after next month’s tournament in Ireland because the focus will shift to sevens.
But this was always the intention and the RFU believes it has been misrepresented by suggestions investment in 15s is being cut.
Since first introducing central contracts in 2014, the RFU has operated on a cyclical basis with emphasis alternating between the sevens and 15s programmes.
The first contracts issued were for sevens in the build-up to the 2016 Olympics in Rio. After that 15s contracts were issued as preparations began for the 2017 World Cup. The next batch of contracts will be focused on the 2018 World Cup Sevens and the Commonwealth Games.
The 15 full-time players currently on 15s contracts have been aware since April the current cycle would end after the World Cup. An additional 17 players have been issued short-term contracts for the tournament.
RFU director of professional rugby Nigel Melville said: “The RFU has made a multi-million 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 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.
“Contracts will then revert to 15s contracts again to prepare for the next big global tournament — the Women’s Rugby World Cup.”
PA Sport understands 10 of the current 15s squad are set to be retained as sevens players post-World Cup. England are the current World Cup holders and begin their title defence against Spain on August 9.
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