Cumbrians Cath O’Donnell and Abbie Scott are two of 28 players who have been handed full-time professional deals to play for England women's rugby team for the 2019/20 season.

Scott, a former Keswick School and Sedbergh School pupil, has been a key member for Simon Middleton's Red Roses side for a number of years, while fellow former Keswick School student O'Donnell has also today been awarded a deal which will run until the climax of the forthcoming campaign in August 2020.

Bristol Bears’ Amber Reed will form part of the squad, having returned to the England fold against the Barbarians in June and won her 50th cap in this summer’s super series after missing the majority of last season through injury.

Meanwhile, also among the names announced, were Saracens’ Bryony Cleall, Wasps scrum-half Claudia McDonald and Scott's Harlequins team-mate Emily Scott.

"The quality of the players within the Tyrrells Premier 15s has meant the competition for contracts has, and will continue, to increase which will only be a positive, as we continue our long-term build-up to the 2021 World Cup," Middleton said. "The league keeps throwing up new talent.

"We looked at the squad before we went out to San Diego in the summer and knew some of the players who were going to be awarded contracts this season. We also looked at some players who we thought probably needed to make a statement in San Diego.

"A couple of players were unable to make the trip. Bryony Cleall was ruled out through injury but we believe she’s got the potential and the playing characteristics that can bring a point of difference to the group.

"We are giving her an opportunity but, as with all the players, it’s now down to her to take it."

Middleton added on England Rugby's website: "Other players, such as Claudia MacDonald, went out to San Diego and had a great tournament. 

"She’s learning her trade as a scrum-half but can also play on the wing, as she did against New Zealand where she had a strong game.

"Emily Scott is not only a top quality player but offers great versatility in her play, a characteristic that is vital when you’re competing in tournament rugby.

"Last season, a number of players surfaced within the league who were showing great potential and we felt it would be wrong not to look at them. We’re really pleased with the squad of 28 and we’ll continue to adapt and call on other players at any given time.

"The whole league is a pool for us. We’re all looking forward to the season ahead."

RFU head of women’s performance Nicky Ponsford added: “As we’ve seen since January, full-time contracts help to ensure we have access to players to develop them and allow them to fulfil their potential.

“Our preparations for the 2021 World Cup are firmly under way and we have a big season ahead of us.

“We’re delighted with the ongoing collaboration between ourselves and the Tyrrells Premier 15s clubs, and we look forward to continuing this work and developing our national team and domestic league throughout the season.”