RFU awards first three England Women professional contracts

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(Reuters) - England women's internationals Natasha Hunt, Emily Scarratt and Jess Breach signed full-time professional contracts for the 2019 season on Thursday, marking their transition to 15-a-side players, the Rugby Football Union (RFU) said on Thursday.

The RFU said in September that England women international 15-a-side players would become fully professional with the RFU awarding 28 full-time contracts effective January, supplemented by seven elite player squad agreements.

The trio, previously under England's Rugby Sevens programme, will move to the top-tier Premier 15s competition, with Breach returning to former side Harlequins while Hunt and Scarratt join Gloucester-Hartpury and Loughborough Lightning respectively.

"These world-class players bring a wealth of talent and experience into the 15s programme," England women's head coach Simon Middleton said in a statement.

England's squad will hold their first camp at Bisham Abbey National Sports Centre on Jan. 4, ahead of the 2019 Women's Six Nations which gets underway against Ireland in Dublin on Feb. 1.

(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; editing by Martyn Herman)

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