Deputy Sports Editor
England Rugby have announced a ‘game-changing’ twenty-eight full-time contracts to be awarded to female athletes.
This program is the first of its kind to be granted to women in the fifteens game by the Rugby Football Union.
The introduction of full-time contracts is aimed to accelerate the development of a female rugby pathway, whilst rewarding those already performing at an elite level for the hard work and effort in previous performance.
Previous success has seen England Women’s Rugby defeat Ireland twice within the Quilter Internationals.
As well as this, they enjoyed a strong tally of wins within the six nations and dominance within the Woman’s World Cup, narrowly losing 41-32 to New Zealand in the final back in 2017.
Tilly Kidd, Club Captain of DUWRFC, speaks of how the contracts are “a testament to the spirit” that exists within woman’s rugby right down to the grassroots.
She went on to further praise the move, stating that it is “sending a message that aspiring players can now view rugby as a real pathway for female athletes’.
Durham itself boasts to hold the largest university woman’s rugby programme in the UK.
They hold three strong Team Durham squads and thirteen college teams, often supporting players competing at the top level in international sides.
A mix of new and experienced players and their commitment to the community in the ‘This Girl Can’ campaign has built a club of unrivalled success and ambition.
This has been capitalised with the announcement of their upcoming charity match on 30th January.
So far this season, the Women’s First XV have completed a 34-10 win over rivals Northumbria, thrashings of Loughborough and Birmingham 69-0 and 78-0 respectively, and now hold a position as the only undefeated team in the BUCS premier league.
Verification of the strength of DUWRFC is that of Claudia MacDonald, a recent graduate who only last season captained the Women’s first XV.
Claudia now competes for London Wasps woman’s rugby side, whilst being among one of seven who have been offered an ‘elite player’ position.
Claudia will attend camps and England training alongside those of the twenty-eight on full-time contracts, gaining experience and involvement in anticipation for her future development.
This is an incredible achievement which will hopefully lead Claudia towards the full-time profession in future years, as she is part of a generation of Female Rugby players set on expanding the English game.
Photograph: Grace Besmond