‘Historic day’ for Scottish Rugby as 28 women players awarded full-time pro contracts
An additional £2.5 million has been invested in women’s and girls’ rugby to fund the one-year deals which will run until November next year. It is understood the players will earn on average £25,000 and playing rugby will now become their primary source of income. Previously, most top players in Scotland have had to fit the sport around their jobs.
Twenty-four of the 28 are based in England, playing in the Allianz Premier 15s, and they will remain at their clubs where they will be “responsible and accountable” for their development. The long-term goal is to set up two semi-professional teams in Scotland who will play in a league with Irish and Welsh clubs but that remains some way off. The more immediate aim is to drive up standards by having the contracted players spending 28 hours a week on rugby.
“This is a serious step forward which allows everybody in the team to just focus on rugby and if they want to do something along that like studying or work, whereby in the past they may have been struggling with the balance of the two,” said Chloe Rollie, the Scotland full-back.
The national side have lost their last nine matches but did qualify for the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand in October. It was the first time in 12 years that Scotland had qualified. Bryan Easson, the head coach of the Scotland women’s team, steered them to the finals where they lost narrowly to Wales and Australia in their opening two games before going down heavily to eventual winners New Zealand in their final group match.
“Our last target was to qualify for the World Cup which we achieved,” said Easson. “The World Cup was an eye-opener for everyone. We got there and now we want to make sure we’re dining at the top table. We learned a lot and we’ve reflected a lot. So 2025 is clearly a big goal for us.”
The SRU will inevitably expect a return on its investment but Easson denied the award of 28 professional contracts would increase the pressure on him to deliver.
“It’s not about the pressure on me, it’s about us growing and developing as players,” he said. “Just because we’re using the world professional and they’re being paid to play rugby it doesn’t just happen overnight. It will take time. But we want to make sure we are showing that the investment is the right thing to do and we want to show we are progressing. We want to make sure we are qualifying and finishing as high up the Six Nations as possible. That’s what we’re all about in terms of performance but ultimately it’s about making them better as individuals.”
Scottish Rugby announced last June that they intended to award 30 full-time contracts and Easson said it was still the intention to fulfil that pledge.
Three current Scotland internationals - Rhona Lloyd, Lisa Thomson and Shona Campbell - have accepted contracts with the GB Sevens team, rather than Scottish Rugby but will continue to be available for Scotland when their sevens commitments allow.
“They have ambitions around the Paris Olympics and we’re delighted they accepted these [GB] contracts,” said Easson. “We’ll continue to talk and work with these guys.
“There are another couple of players who are still considering contracts, due to work commitments. We have said 30 contracts and we have others returning from injury.”
The four players who have been awarded contracts who are based in Scotland are Meryl Smith, Elliann Clarke, Emma Orr and Evie Wills who are all finishing their studies. The 24 English-based players are: forwards Leah Bartlett, Christine Belisle, Sarah Bonar, Lisa Cockburn, Evie Gallagher, Jade Konkel-Roberts, Rachel Malcolm, Elis Martin, Rachel McLachlan, Louise McMillan, Lyndsay O’Donnell, Lana Skeldon, Jodie Rettie, Emma Wassell, Molly Wright, Anne Young, and backs Coreen Grant, Sarah Law, Caity Mattinson, Jenny Maxwell, Mairi McDonald, Liz Musgrove, Helen Nelson and Rollie.
Malcolm, the Scotland captain, said: “This is a historic and incredibly exciting day for Scottish Rugby and the women’s programme. The opportunity to go professional is not one I thought I would have within my career and as a playing group we are determined to use this opportunity to take Scotland Women to a new level.”
Five members of the Scotland World Cup squad in New Zealand have not been awarded a contract - Katie Dougan, Eva Donaldson, Eilidh Sinclair, Megan Gaffney and Hannah Smith. The latter has retired from international rugby.
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