VALKYRIES pair Lark Davies and Lydia Thompson have been included in England Women’s Elite Player Squad for the 2019 season.
The 35-player squad includes 28 full-time professionals, supplemented by seven EPS agreements, with players who will come into camps and England training, but not the full-time programme.
As announced last month, also bringing a wealth of experience are three players returning to 15s from the sevens programme. 2014 World Cup winners and 2017 finalists Natasha Hunt and Emily Scarratt join Jess Breach in the move back to the 15s setup.
There are six new names named in this year’s EPS, including five players who made their England debuts during the 2018 Quilter Internationals. Firwood Waterloo back-row forward Sarah Beckett, Loughborough Lightning centre Carys Williams and Gloucester-Hartpury centre Tatyana Heard have been awarded full-time contracts, while Ellena Perry, Wasps scrum-half Claudia Macdonald and uncapped Saracens prop Bryony Cleall are also named under the EPS agreements.
The squad comes together today at its new base Bisham Abbey National Sports Centre for January testing, before three-days of training get underway tomorrow ahead of the 2019 Women’s Six Nations which kicks off against Ireland in Dublin on February 1.
England head coach Simon 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 in 2021.
“Congratulations to all those selected, every player has worked hard to rightly earn their place. As a player and management group, our immediate focus is very much on the Six Nations and the continued development of what is a still a very new squad of players.
“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.”