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Bern and Tuima awarded full-time England Women’s contracts

Bristol Bears Women duo Sarah Bern and Lagi Tuima have been awarded full-time England Women’s contracts and will be a part of the Elite Player Squad for the 2019 season. 

Tuima is now in her second season with the Bears and Bern re-joined the club in the summer from local rivals Gloucester-Hartpury, both players have being sidelined through injury for the most part of the season (shoulder and hamstring) and are currently working their way back to full fitness. 

Both players have previous experience with the Red Roses, Bern was a member of the squad that finished runners-up in the 2017 World Cup and Tuima was involved throughout the Autumn Tests and Six Nations in the 2017/18 campaign.

The RFU announced back 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. 

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.

The squad has convened 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 Friday 1 February.

Bristol Bears Women head coach Kim Oliver said: “It’s fantastic that Sarah and Lagi have been awarded full-time contracts, they’re both young and in the early stages in their rugby careers so it’s a really exciting time for them.

“Both players are currently working their way back to full fitness, but they’re two very highly skilled players and this opportunity is one that should allow them to develop further and this will hopefully translate back onto the pitch for Bristol Bears Women.

“Women’s Rugby in England is growing at such a rapid rate and it’s great to see the RFU are invested in the long-term growth and success of the game by awarding these full-time contracts.”

England Women 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.”

England Women Elite Player Squad 2019 in full:

Forwards

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)

Backs

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 player


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