England's Rachael Burford holds the Women's Rugby World Cup aloft in 2014. But the side's contracts will not be renewed by the RFU after their impending defence of the trophy in Ireland ©Getty Images

Katie Sadleir, appointed as World Rugby's first general manager for women's rugby in November, has defended the Rugby Football Union's (RFU) commitment to the women's game. 

It follows recent bad publicity over the RFU's decision not to renew the contracts of the England players who will begin the defence of their Women's Rugby World Cup title, a tournament due to start in Dublin on Wednesday (August 9). 

Asked whether the RFU decision indicated that, despite all the advances for the women's game in recent years, it is still not being treated in the same way as the men's game, Sadleir told insidethegames: "This is a matter for the RFU, not World Rugby.

"The RFU are real champions of women's rugby and invest significant resources in the women's game.

"And in so many ways they have been trailblazers in terms of setting standards and delivering great programmes."

The RFU decision came to light on a weekend when the England women's cricket team won the World Cup at Lord's and the football team were on course for the quarter-finals of Euro 2017 in The Netherlands.

The RFU argued that the priority had to switch from XVs to sevens with the Rugby World Cup Sevens and Commonwealth Games taking place next year. 

England will enter the World Cup in Ireland this week as defending champions and the sport's top-ranked team ©Getty Images
England will enter the World Cup in Ireland this week as defending champions and the sport's top-ranked team ©Getty Images

England have named a 28-strong World Cup squad under the direction of their head coach, Simon Middleton, and are due begin their defence against Spain in Dublin on Wednesday (August 9).

Following a successful three-game tour in New Zealand, where England beat Australia, Canada and the host nation, the side go into the competition ranked number one in the world.

Sadleir believes the impending World Cup in Ireland will be hugely important in maintaining the momentum of the women's game in terms of interest and profile.

"We are predicting a game-changing Women's Rugby World Cup and an event that will inspire the next generation of girls and boys to get into rugby," she said.

"The stage is set for a fantastic event on and off the field with a record broadcast and social media platform and a real global groundswell of support, following on from the recent Cricket World Cup and UEFA Women's Championship."

Find the Big Read on the state of women's rugby here