Graduate Alex named in RFU’s first ever professional women’s rugby squad

Rugby World Cup winning University of Roehampton graduate Alex Matthews has become the youngest women ever to be given a full time contract to play the sport professionally, the RFU has revealed.

Posted: 26 August 2014

image for news story Graduate Alex named in RFU’s first ever professional women’s rugby squad
Alex Matthews, right, pictured with other sports scholars from the University of Roehampton

Following the England team’s victory in the Women’s Rugby World Cup in Paris earlier this month, the RFU announced it would contract and pay 20 players to perform full time. It is the first time women players have been recognised professionally by the English game, previously they had turned out for the national side around their work or studies.

Matthews, 21, who plays club rugby for Richmond, completed her degree in sports psychology and graduated with her year group at the Royal Festival Hall in July.

The contracts are intended to form a squad of professional, highly trained players for the England Women’s Sevens who will seek qualification for Great Britain in the 2016 Olympics in Brazil.

Dr Caroline Ross, Head of the Department of Life Sciences, where Matthews completed her degree said: “To have trained for and won the world cup at the same time as studying for a rigorous degree was an amazing achievement and everyone at the University remains incredibly pleased and proud for her.

“I’m delighted the women’s game has now been given the professional recognition it deserves by the RFU. When elite players come through universities like Roehampton they are given first rate support; now the sport itself has matched that for professional women, this can only lead to more success, and should give us great confidence for the Olympics.”

England’s World Cup winning captain Katy Mclean said: “This is fantastic news for the sport and exactly what we need as an England squad to continue to be at the top of our sport on a global scale.”

The RFU’s professional programme will see Matthews and her team mates receive strength training and conditioning, medical, nutritional, lifestyle and psychological support.

Players have been awarded the central contracts on a yearly basis and they will still be expected to play international XVs and Premiership rugby.

Alex Matthews was a sports scholar during her time at the University. Read more about Sport Roehampton.

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