‘Deep concern’ over end of women’s contracts

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England won the Women’s World Cup for the first time in 20 years in 2014

The shadow sports minister has urged the Rugby Football Union to reconsider its decision not to renew the contracts of England’s women XV players.

In a letter seen by BBC Sport, Dr Rosena Allin-Khan tells chief executive Ian Ritchie of her “deep concern”.

Despite England preparing to defend the World Cup next month, the RFU said its focus will switch to the sevens game after the tournament.

“To make this decision is deeply disappointing,” wrote Allin-Khan.

“Asking players to pause and resume their professions every two years puts their futures at considerable risk.”

‘Inspiration to countless girls’

The RFU, which announced record revenues last year of more than £400m, said its priorities shift between the XVs and sevens programmes, with the World Cup Sevens and Commonwealth Games taking place next year.

It said the England XV side will continue to take part in competitions, and that it has invested millions of pounds in the women’s game, including £800,000 annually on a new domestic competition aimed at increasing and improving the talent pool available for selection for England.

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But Allin-Khan wrote: “The England women’s team are a source of inspiration to countless girls and women the length and breadth of the country.

“The players have played their part. Many left careers in other professions to commit themselves fully to representing their country.

“The RFU is placing the risk of playing international rugby on the players themselves.

“The most concerning aspect of this news is what it says about the RFU’s ongoing commitment to the women’s game. The discontinuation of these contracts sends the message that the RFU is far less than fully committed to the women’s game.

“We have come such a long way and the England women’s team have rewarded us with no less than world titles. We cannot fail them with a poverty of ambition or investment. We therefore strongly urge you to reconsider this decision.”

In a statement, RFU director of professional rugby Nigel Melville said: “The women’s squad were always aware that contracts would end in September, after the World Cup.

“The current XVs squad was informed in April that the next contracts will be focused on sevens, reflecting the cyclical nature of the women’s game.

“The squad fully understands the position and are focused on the World Cup in Ireland next month.”

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