Pregnant Cumbrian rugby star Abbie Ward will help England's squad prepare for the forthcoming Women's Six Nations.

Ward, from Keswick, announced last month that she was expecting her first child.

The Bristol Bears player will be involved with the Red Roses squad on the coaching side as they build up to the tournament.

Ward, who has 61 international caps, "will be with the group for set days throughout the tournament to support with the coaching delivery", England said in a statement.

Among the players she will work with is fellow Cumbrian Cath O'Donnell, with the Maryport player has been named in the 42-strong England squad for the tournament which starts later this month.

Ward recently described her pregnancy as a "distraction" and a "new focus", whilst pledging to spend as much time in the gym and training pitch as possible.

She is the first full-time professional to carry a child, according to the BBC.

Her pregnancy comes at a time the Rugby Football Union have launched a new maternity policy for contracted players that includes 26 weeks of leave on full pay.

Also included in the ‘maternity, pregnant parent and adoption leave policy’ is the capacity for pregnant players to perform other roles within rugby until they begin maternity leave.

Ward said: “I’m confident 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.”

Carlisle-born O'Donnell, of Loughborough Lightning, will hope to seal her place in the side to face Scotland on March 25.

News and Star: Cath O'Donnell, third rightCath O'Donnell, third right (Image: PA)

Head coach Simon Middleton, who has called up nine uncapped players for the campaign, will meet the squad at St George's Park next Monday for the first of two preparation days.

"We’re really looking forward to the TikTok Six Nations tournament," said Middleton.

"There are a number of new faces in this squad and while we are missing experienced players, this is a great opportunity for these younger players and we’re looking forward to working with them.

"There is always a regeneration period after any World Cup and this one is no different. Those selected have performed very well in the Allianz Premier 15s and deserve their opportunity.

"The Six Nations is one of the most iconic tournaments in world rugby that we love participating in. We also recognise that it’s an important start point in terms of preparation for the 2025 World Cup.

"Spectators will see competitive games across the board and we can’t wait to get started."