Shropshire's Lark Davies is named in England elite squad
Shropshire rugby player Lark Davies has been named in a 35-strong elite player squad for this year announced by England Women head coach Simon Middleton.
The 23-year-old former Ludlow College student, a hooker for Worcester Valkyries, has 13 caps.
The Rugby Football Union said in September that it would introduce women’s full-time contracts this season, underlining its commitment to the long-term growth of women’s rugby.
Under its women and girls strategy, the RFU plans to double the number of participants by 2021, increase the number of women’s teams by more than 75 per cent to 800 and get more women involved as referees and coaches and volunteers.
Middleton said: “I am confident that this group of players have the potential to grow into the world-class squad we will be looking to take to New Zealand (for the World Cup) in 2021.”
“The introduction of full-time contracts will take time to embed, but will unquestionably help us to accelerate the development process.
“This is a huge opportunity, and we recognise the expectation that comes with the investment. It is now down to us as a management and playing group to meet those expectations.”
RFU head of women’s performance Nicky Ponsford added: “At England Rugby we want to be driving standards in women’s rugby through everything we do.
“Full-time contracts help to ensure we have the access to players to develop them and allow them to fulfil their potential.
“We look forward to continuing to work with the clubs in developing this group of players and continuing to grow the Tyrrells Premier 15s at a domestic level.”
The RFU launched the Tyrrells Premier 15s in 2017, which saw the union invest £2.4million in the new women’s domestic XVs competition.
England’s Women’s Six Nations campaign begins against Ireland in Dublin on 1 February.
England Women’s head coach Simon Middleton has announced a 35-strong elite player squad for this year that includes 28 full-time professionals.
The group also features seven players on EPS agreements, while full-time contracts have been awarded to the likes of long-time captain Sarah Hunter, plus her fellow 2014 World Cup winners Katy Daley-Mclean, Marlie Packer and Vicky Fleetwood.
They are joined by 2017 World Cup finalists Sarah Bern, Rachael Burford, Vickii Cornborough, Abbie Scott and Lydia Thompson.
As previously announced, three players - Natasha Hunt, Emily Scarratt and Jess Breach - will move back into the 15s programme from sevens.