England captain Sarah Hunter to retire after Six Nations opener
England captain Sarah Hunter will retire after the Women’s Six Nations opener against Scotland this weekend.
Hunter, who has won a world-record 140 caps for her country, has decided to call time on her rugby career after Saturday’s clash in her home city of Newcastle.
The 37-year-old back-row forward has helped England win 10 Six Nations titles and the 2014 World Cup. She was also named named World Rugby Women’s Player of the Year in 2016.
She told BBC Sport: “Everything has to come to an end at some point.
“The RFU kindly put a Red Roses game finally at Newcastle, which is my home city where I grew up. I just couldn’t not give it a go to play in the game. I started playing rugby in Newcastle, finishing there feels like I’ve come full circle.
Marlie Packer is expected to take on the full-time role of captain, having been named co-captain for this Six Nations campaign.
Teammate Emily Scarratt paid tribute to the outgoing Hunter, labelling her “the best servant English rugby has ever had”.
“[She’s] somebody who set the highest standards that we’ve all tried desperately to get anywhere close to,” Scarratt told BBC. “One of the best players definitely, one of the best leaders definitely but a million per cent, one of the best people.
“I don’t know if there will ever be another Sarah Hunter but I’m very grateful to have played alongside her. If anyone deserves a long, restful and enjoyable retirement, it’s her.”
In a statement issued through the RFU, Hunter thanked her former clubs and those who had supported her along the way, adding it was her ideal manner and time to call it a day.
“Not many athletes get to choose how and when they call time on their playing careers. I am 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,” she said.
“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.
“What’s more, to play there in a white shirt, which is something I’ve been immensely proud of, and 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.”
Head coach Simon Middleton added:
“Sarah is the most honest and professional player I have ever known let alone worked with. 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 would 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.
“For her to be everything that she has been and to still be someone who would never say no to any request, autograph, appearance, or anything if she thought it would support others or benefit the game says everything about her strength of character and selflessness. There couldn’t be a better way for her to finish than on her home patch, back where it all started. Sarah is so fiercely proud of where she’s from, it’s like the stars have aligned for her and it couldn’t be more fitting that this is where she brings the curtain down.”
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