England Women announce 35-strong Elite Player Squad for 2019
Head coach Simon Middleton targets Six Nations victory - watch all of England's games live on Sky Sports
Last Updated: 04/01/19 10:22am
England Women have announced their Elite Player Squad (EPS) for the 2019 season, which includes 2014 World Cup winners Katy Daley-Mclean, captain Sarah Hunter, Marlie Packer and Vicky Fleetwood.
The 35-player squad includes 28 full-time professionals, the first to be awarded in the 15s game by the Rugby Football Union, with seven further players who will come into England camps and training but not join the full-time programme.
Simon Middleton's squad also includes 2017 World Cup finalists Sarah Bern, Rachael Burford, Vickii Cornborough, Abbie Scott and Lydia Thompson as they build towards the 2021 World Cup.
"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," said Middleton.
"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."
2017 finalist Amy Cokayne will form part of the squad under an EPS agreement, allowing her to continue her commitments to the Royal Air Force alongside international rugby duties.
2014 World Cup winners and 2017 finalists Natasha Hunt and Emily Scarratt along with Jess Breach were the first three players to be awarded full-time contracts last month after moving back to the 15-a-side game from Sevens.
The squad, which will be based at Bisham Abbey, includes six new names in this year's EPS, including five players who made their England debuts during the 2018 Quilter Internationals.
Sarah Beckett, Carys Williams and 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.
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 and 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."
England will begin their Six Nations campaign against Ireland in Dublin on February 1.
England Women Elite Player Squad 2019
Zoe Aldcroft (Gloucester-Hartpury Womens RFC)
Sarah Beckett (Firwood Waterloo Ladies)
Sarah Bern (Bristol Bears Women)
Hannah Botterman (Saracens Women)
Jo Brown (Loughborough Lightning)
Rowena Burnfield (Richmond FC)*
Shaunagh Brown (Harlequins Ladies)
Bryony Cleall (Saracens Women)*
Poppy Cleall (Saracens Women)
Amy Cokayne (Wasps FC Ladies)*
Vickii Cornborough (Harlequins Ladies)
Lark Davies (Worcester Valkyries)
Vicky Fleetwood (Saracens Women)
Sarah Hunter (Loughborough Lightning)
Justine Lucas (Loughborough Lightning)
Cath O' Donnell (Loughborough Lightning)
Marlie Packer (Saracens Women)
Ellena Perry (Saracens Women)*
Abbie Scott (Harlequins Ladies)
Jess Breach (Harlequins Ladies)
Rachael Burford (Harlequins Ladies)
Katy Daley-Mclean (Loughborough Lightning)
Abby Dow (Wasps FC Ladies)*
Zoe Harrison (Saracens Women)
Tatyana Heard (Gloucester-Hartpury Womens RFC)
Natasha Hunt (Gloucester-Hartpury Womens RFC)
Claudia Macdonald (Wasps FC Ladies)*
Sarah McKenna (Saracens Women)
Leanne Riley (Harlequins Ladies)
Emily Scarratt (Loughborough Lightning)
Emily Scott (Harlequins Ladies)*
Kelly Smith (Gloucester-Hartpury Womens RFC)
Lydia Thompson (Worcester Valkyries)
Lagi Tuima (Bristol Bears Women)
Carys Williams (Loughborough Lightning)
* denotes EPS agreement