Spencer wants club game growth

Former England rugby captain Catherine Spencer believes there is still some way to go before the 15-a-side women's game follows the Sevens format and turns professional.

On Monday the RFU handed professional contracts to 20 England Sevens' players, including 12 members of the World Cup winning squad such as captain Katy Mclean, Emily Scarratt, Marlie Packer and Heather Fisher.

But Spencer, who led England to the Rugby World Cup final on home soil in 2010, believes XVs rugby still needs building up before pro contracts can be offered to female players.

"We've got Rugby Sevens at the 2016 Olympics and there are already players around the world that are getting paid to play Sevens and are on central contracts," Spencer told Sky Sports.

"It's happened now with the shorter version of the game in Sevens and that's obviously linked to the build up to the Olympics.

"But in XVs I still think we are a little way off although maybe it will happen in the future.

"I think we need to build up the club game in England first; to attract more profile to it and hopefully to attract more sponsorship to it.

"Only then might it be an option.

"We've got a good number of clubs playing rugby and a competitive Premiership, but for me the next step is developing that profile and attracting more people to that part of the game - not just England rugby."

Spencer believes that although the England XVs are not full-time, the RFU has created a top class working environment for the players to operate in.

"In terms of the England women's team, the support structure and the way it's governed by the RFU is incredibly good," she said.

"England are probably one of the most supported nations around the world.

"So although the players themselves are not getting paid they have a very professional environment around them which is great.

"I think turning full-time has to be done at the right time and - particularly in XVs rugby - I don't think there would be any point in England paying their players if there are no other countries around the world doing the same.

"I think it may happen in the future but really it's the club game that require strengthening first in order to support that."