FOUR teenage girls from Tynedale Panthers have secured places at a new centre for excellence in rugby union.

The Rugby Football Union’s (RFU) Centre for Excellence at Darlington Mowden Park has been set up to nurture the sports stars of the future.

Maisie James of Wylam, Daisy Oliver of Corbridge, and Hexham girls Hannah Carter and Holly Thorpe, are among other girls from across the north of England to join the academy.

They will work with coaches at Darlington Mowden Park, the professional rugby union club which competes in National League One.

It is part of the RFU’s performance pathways programme, which aims to develop future England women players.

The four girls, who all play for Tynedale Panthers, have all represented Northumberland and the North of England.

Maisie James (16), who attends Prudhoe High School, said: “I was at the academy last weekend and the facilities are fantastic.

“We get to work with the best coaches but will also learn about what it is like to become an elite athlete and about other issues, such as sports nutrition and anti-doping.”

During their time at the academy, the girls will also have the opportunity to meet and work with seasoned England internationals, including Tamara Taylor.

Maisie added: “It’s very exciting, and it really is a great opportunity after earning a place at the academy.

“To get in, we had to go for a trial which included an interview about what we wanted to achieve in the game.”

Tynedale Panthers coach Nick Oliver praised the girls’ achievements and added that the Panthers were also looking forward to welcoming new players when next season gets under way in September.

He said: “We’re delighted that four Tynedale Panthers have got into the new RFU Centre of Excellence at Darlington Mowden Park.

“It’s a well-deserved reward for their dedication and hard work. These girls are at the pinnacle of an explosion in rugby for girls and although we’re delighted to have record numbers, we look forward to welcoming new players in September.”