Most-capped player Hunter announces retirement


Red Roses captain Sarah Hunter will retire after Saturday’s Six Nations opener against Scotland, bringing to an end a 19-year playing career in the sport.

The backrower, who started her rugby life as a centre, helped England win 10 Six Nations titles (with eight grand slams) and the 2014 Rugby World Cup, playing in four finals.

She will retire with 140 England caps at Kingston Park in the first women’s rugby game to be played in Newcastle, the city in which she grew up.

“Not many athletes get to choose how and when they call time on their playing careers,” Hunter said.

“I’m very fortunate that I have the opportunity to finish on my own terms. I couldn’t think of a better way to do it than in my home town where my rugby journey started.

“I get to finish in a place that has a special place in my heart in front of my friends, family and Red Roses supporters and I feel very fortunate that I’m able to do that.

“To play there in a white shirt – which is something I’ve been immensely proud of and I feel very honoured to have represented my country so many times – feels like an ending I couldn’t look past and I feel very fortunate that I get to do this.”

As she will in her final game, Hunter made her debut 16 years ago in a home game against Scotland in the Six Nations, which went on to be the first of five consecutive Six Nations winning campaigns she was involved in.

She had only missed the 2009 campaign through injury, where the nation had failed to win the Grand Slam, and although the Red Roses didn’t win the 2013 campaign as she first captained the team, she played a key part in England’s World Cup winning campaign the following year.

Hunter took on the England captaincy permanently in mid-2015 and soon after improved upon their fourth-placed finish in that year’s Six Nations to finish second and win the Triple Crown in 2016, a year in which Hunter was named World Rugby Player of the Year.

She captained England to their first Six Nations in five years the year after, before taking them to the World Cup Final later that year, and led them to four consecutive titles after England went professional in 2019 before another World Cup Final last Autumn.

Hunter (right) lifts the Six Nations trophy with Emily Scarratt (left) as England celebrate winning their 2021 Grand Slam

“Sarah is the most honest and professional player I have ever known let alone worked with,” England coach Simon Middleton said.

“Throughout her career her commitment to being the best version of herself at every opportunity has shone through in her attention to detail and faultless preparation.

“I’d say she has maximised every ounce of her potential, which if when you reflect on your career you can say that, then it puts you in a very special category.”

“She’s an absolute inspiration for everybody who has played with her or worked with her and is the ultimate example to every young person who would want to play.

“The word legend is overused but it’s most definitely not in her case, she is and will always be a true England legend.”

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