FORMER Ellingham and Ringwood Rugby Club players Poppy and Bryony Cleall have been awarded Elite Player Squad contracts by the English RFU.
The 26-year-old Cleall twins have both been included in the 2019 35-player England Women’s squad.
Lock Poppy, who has won 24 international caps, is one of the 28 new full-time professionals.
Her twin sister Bryony is currently uncapped. She is one of seven players on part-time EPS agreements and will come into England training, but not the full-time programme.
The Cleall sisters started their rugby journey as youngsters at Ellingham & Ringwood RFC before moving on to bigger clubs. They currently both play for Saracens in the Tyrrells Premier national league.
This month Poppy and Bryony will link up with the England Red Roses squad at Bisham Abbey National Sports Centre ahead of the 2019 Women’s Six Nations which kicks off against Ireland in Dublin on Friday 1st February.
England women’s 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.
“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.”
The RFU announced 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% to 800, the number of active women’s clubs to more than 400, and get more women involved in the sport as referees, coaches and volunteers.