World Cup winner Natasha Hunt faces uncertain future

By Liam Ryder in Rugby

DRYBROOK’S World Cup heroine Natasha Hunt faces an uncertain future after it was revealed that the contracts for England’s Women’s World Cup squad would not be renewed after the tournament.

It means that Hunt and many of her Red Roses teammates could have to return to jobs outside of rugby if they are unable to secure a contract within the nation’s Sevens side.

Hunt, alongside former Drybrook RFC player and current women’s coach Ceri Large, won the World Cup in France in 2013 and could help England retain their title in Ireland later this month.

There is a significant chance players in the squad could win the World Cup and then be out of work the following month.

However, as a regular member of both the XV and Sevens national teams, Hunt would be a likely candidate to earn a new contract when her full-time deal with the RFU runs out in September.

The RFU’s move to focus on Sevens has provoked an angry response, with MPs and former players slamming the move.

Shadow sports minister Dr Rosena Allin-Khan MP wrote to RFU chief executive Ian Ritchie to express her ’deep concern’.

But Ritchie has replied saying concurrent contracts for both Sevens and the XVs would ’harm the performance of both’.

“There are 17 players on full-time contracts this season and there will be 17 players on full-time contracts next season,” he said.

“It would harm the performance of both the Sevens and XVs teams if we were to treat them as separate elite squads, and therefore we work on a cycle to match the international rugby calendar and select the strongest available squad for each major tournament.”

Nigel Melville, the RFU’s director of professional rugby, said the RFU are ’investing more than ever’ into the women’s game.

“The women’s game works in cycles between the XVs and Sevens programmes,” he said.

“And as a result next year there will be 17 professional, full-time fixed-term Sevens contracts to prepare England to compete in the two big global tournaments on the horizon - the 2018 Rugby World Cup Sevens and the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

“The Women’s squad were always aware that contracts would end in September, after the World Cup.

“The current XVs squad was informed in April that the next contracts will be focused on Sevens, reflecting the cyclical nature of the women’s game.”

• THE Women’s Rugby World Cup starts next Wednesday, as England open the tournament with a Pool B match against Spain at 2pm on ITV4.

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