Former England captain Emily Rudge believes the newly announced match pay will give St Helens RFC Women a competitive edge this season.

St Helens Women have made history being the first side in the north-west to offer match pay to female players.

The announcement follows on from similar commitments by Huddersfield, Leeds and reigning Super League champions York.

Rudge, one of two vice captains at the club, believes it will be a significant boost to the team’s upcoming season as a direct result.

Speaking to Merseysportlive, Rudge said: “You’ve got to be on the pitch and in the team to be getting paid.

“I think that creates a lot of competitiveness and people wanting to be part of that and to be a paid player.

“It will probably give us a boost as a team.

“People are a bit more buzzin’ to get going at the start of this season. I think every year it gets bigger and better.

“This is just an added bonus to everything that’s been happening.”

Rudge also highlighted the immediate impact the announcement has had on the level of performance in training.

She added: “It’s made training more competitive.

“Only 1 to 17 are going to be getting the match payments so you’ve really got to fight for a shirt.”

The side secured their third consecutive Challenge Cup last season.

However, they failed to advance elsewhere after bowing out of the Super League in the semi-final to Leeds Rhinos.

This season they will strive for a fourth consecutive Challenge Cup.

If successful they will equal their own record, achieved when previously known as Thatto Heath.

They also set their eyes on the Women’s Super League, a title they last won in their 2021 record-breaking treble season.

St Helens Women kick off their 2024 campaign away to Bradford Bulls.

The game is a title defending battle in the Challenge Cup on Saturday March 23.