England Women name 54-strong elite player squad
England Women have announced a 54-strong elite player squad for this season, with more than half the group awarded inaugural 15-a-side professional contracts.
The squad is split into full-time, part-time, short-term and non-contracted players.
Eight of Great Britain's Rio Olympics rugby sevens squad that narrowly missed out on a medal in Brazil will return to the 15-a-side programme, including Emily Scarratt, Claire Allan, Natasha Hunt and Danielle Waterman.
Eighteen players have been handed full-time deals as England look to retain the women's World Cup in Ireland next August, with nine on part-time contracts, 11 gaining short-term deals and 16 non-contracted.
The squad will prepare for games in November against France, Ireland, New Zealand and Canada, ahead of the Six Nations, in addition to the HSBC world rugby sevens series.
England Women head coach Simon Middleton said: "With less than 12 months to the 2017 women's Rugby World Cup, the focus for the EPS this year will be very much on the 15-a-side game.
"We believe everyone in this squad has the potential to make the World Cup.
"We are looking forward to an exciting season, and I would like to recognise and thank those employers who have supported and released players to take up these contracts and represent England."