England scrum half Natasha “Mo” Hunt has been rewarded with a Red Roses contract after forcing her way back into the national set-up.
Hunt was the standout omission from Simon Middleton’s Rugby World Cup squad last year, but returned to the fold during the Women’s Six Nations and started England’s WXV win over New Zealand earlier in November.
Having been left off the list of 32 players awarded contracts this summer despite leading Gloucester-Hartpury to a league title last season, the 67-cap No 9 has now been added to England’s core group of players under new head coach John Mitchell.
Fellow scrum half Ella Wyrwas, of Saracens, has also received a deal. The pair will be part of Mitchell’s first training camp in January as the Red Roses begin preparations for next year’s Women’s Six Nations.
“Mo’s mindset to keep improving and push herself has seen her play some of the best rugby of her career over the past year,” said Charlie Hayter, head of women’s performance at the Rugby Football Union (RFU).
“She suits the way we want to approach the game and her experience is invaluable. During the recent WXV campaign, she enhanced the Red Roses culture and has bought into what we are aiming to achieve on and off the field as we embark on our new journey.”
The RFU refuses to confirm the length of individual player deals, but has moved to a new contracting model that allows some players to be awarded longer contracts of up to three years as they gear up for a home World Cup in 2025.
Hunt and Wyrwas join Lucy Packer – the only specialist scrum half originally contracted – in a 34-player group that includes prop Vickii Cornborough and lock Abbie Ward, who both went on maternity leave before the birth of their children this year.
There are an additional six “transition” contracts designed to support the development of younger players.
Meanwhile, captain Marlie Packer is understood to have avoided serious injury after an incident in Saracens’ win over Trailfinders Women in round two of the new Premiership Women’s Rugby (PWR) season.
Packer, who succeeded the retiring Sarah Hunter as England skipper during the Six Nations, tumbled awkwardly after being barged in the back by Trailfinders’ Kate Zackary off the ball.
The 34-year-old received prolonged treatment on Saturday and Saracens were fearful that the back row had suffered a significant lower leg injury, but scans have provided a positive prognosis and the flanker should soon be back in action.