LONDON (Reuters) - England women international 15-a-side players will become fully professional with the Rugby Football Union (RFU) announcing on Monday the introduction of full-time contracts this season.
The RFU said there would be 28 full-time contracts available to England Women, effective from January, supplemented by seven elite player squad agreements. No financial details were given.
"We are delighted to be able to offer full-time contracts to our 15s players," said RFU Chief Executive Steve Brown in a statement.
"This has long been our ambition and demonstrates the RFU's commitment to growing the women's game and the belief we have in the future of the sport."
All England players would be eligible to play for their clubs in the women's Premiership, returning to the RFU for national duties with the squad based at Bisham Abbey.
The RFU said it was planning to double the number of female rugby players by 2021, increasing the number of women's teams by more than 75 percent to 800, and get more women involved in coaching and officiating.
"We are at a tipping point for women's rugby globally and it is our ambition to be world number one and drive growth at every level," said Brown.
"As an organisation, from top to bottom, we are very much behind this and want to see the continued expansion and growth to realise the ambitious targets we have set ourselves."
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Christian Radnedge)