England women reach pay deal for autumn internationals
England women's players have secured a pay deal with the Rugby Football Union (RFU) before the autumn internationals.
For the first time, the RFU will pay a match fee, while all players in the Elite Player Squad (EPS) will receive a squad training fee.
The figures are confidential, although the BBC understands a player involved in all matches will make between £4,000 and £5,000 in total this autumn.
England face Canada in a three-Test series, with the opener on Friday.
Last month, the RFU said they would introduce training fees and match fees, and an agreement was reached earlier this week.
While the women's XV-a-side contracts were controversially not renewed following the Rugby World Cup, it's hoped the new payment plan will represent a milestone in the women's game.
Under the terms of the new deal, the women's players will not be salaried employees of the RFU, but will be paid when on England duty in the autumn, Six Nations, and summer tour.
The match fee for the women's players is vastly lower than that received by their male counterparts, which can be explained by a variety of factors such as attendances and commercial reach.
While Twickenham regularly reaches its 82,000 capacity for a men's international, the women's opener with Canada has, in comparison, sold 1,500 tickets.
A senior men's international can make in excess of £22,000 per match, a bundle that also includes training fees and lucrative image rights.
England's men have collectively licensed their image rights because of commercial demand, which isn't the case with the women.
However, it's believed the RFU is considering introducing a rate card for commercial appearances for the women's players, which would be separate from training and match fees, although that will not come into play this autumn.
Experienced women's internationals Tamara Taylor, Danielle Waterman and Vicky Cornborough have been negotiating on behalf of the players, alongside the Rugby Players' Association (RPA).
"We have been working with the RPA and a representative group of players to agree a pay structure for the Women's XVs squad," an RFU spokeswoman told the BBC.
"The pay deal includes a squad fee and a match fee and is another step forward in our drive to professionalise the women's game in England."
The RFU were widely criticised for ending full-time contracts for the Red Roses after the World Cup, and while anything else could still be considered a step backwards, the XV-a-side players will at least now be paid when on England duty.
The match and training fees pale in comparison with the men, a sign of how far the women's game still has to travel, and while some will feel the RFU could have made a bigger gesture, it's believed the payments aren't dissimilar to what a semi-pro male Championship player would receive from his second-tier club.
The negotiations have been drawn-out and not always straightforward, with the women's player representatives keen to reach a deal that benefitted the whole of the squad. And given their latest investment in women's rugby at grassroots level, the RFU continue to lead other unions when it comes to growing the women's game.