England Women's Rugby has once more led the way in supporting its players with the RFU 's announcement of a new, more generous maternity leave policy for players on the English women's team.
The new policy provides 26 weeks of fully paid maternity leave, as well as opportunities to stay involved with the team and a guaranteed 12-month extension of players' contracts if contracts are renegotiated while the player is pregnant or on maternity leave.
Players may also travel with their infant within 12 months of giving birth, with the RFU meeting travel and accommodation costs for the mother and child as well as a support person.
England Rugby said in a statement that "the RFU will support the right of the player who wishes to continue to be involved in the team [during pregnancy] while ensuring that the safety of the player and the unborn child are considered first." A "full risk assessment" will take place to determine the capacity in which the player can continue.
Opportunities will also be provided "to move into other safe employment within the rugby network, e.g., community coach, until the player goes on maternity leave."
RPA (Rugby Players' Association) General Secretary Christian Day said: "We are delighted to have been able to work with the RFU in such a positive way for our members, with today's announcement signifying another significant step forward for our members for the women's game in England...this new policy ensures that our women's players will be better supported through parenthood when representing England."
Red Roses lock Abbie Ward, who is expecting her first child, commented, "There has been a great deal of work carried out by players, the RPA, and the RFU to get this point. I am confident that the policy will help normalise motherhood in sport and give players the best possible chance of returning to play should they wish to do so in a secure and safe way."
The Red Roses became the first women's rugby team to be fully professional in 2019, when every member was offered a full-time professional contract.