UK

Former England rugby captain Sarah Hunter enjoying ‘not feeling beaten up’

Sarah Hunter (Aaron Chown/PA)
Sarah Hunter (Aaron Chown/PA) Sarah Hunter (Aaron Chown/PA)

Former England Women’s rugby union captain Sarah Hunter has said she is enjoying no longer “feeling beaten up and battered” in her retirement, as she was made a CBE for services to the sport.

The 38-year-old – England’s most capped player – said it is an “uncomfortable” feeling to be singled out for praise because rugby is the “ultimate team sport”.

Hunter, who won 138 caps and captained her side at the 2021 Rugby World Cup, was handed her CBE medal by the Prince of Wales at an investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace on Monday.

Sarah Hunter chats to William at Buckingham Palace
Sarah Hunter chats to William at Buckingham Palace Sarah Hunter chats to William at Buckingham Palace (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Hunter – who made her England debut in 2007 and was named World Rugby Women’s Player of the Year in 2016 – announced her retirement from international rugby earlier this year.

She has started a new chapter of her career as a coach with the England team, something she discussed with William.

She told the PA news agency: “He asked me what I’m doing now since I stopped playing.

“England Rugby have got me back in coaching to try and help the next generation of players come through.”

Hunter and William also discussed the Princess of Wales’s role as a patron of England Rugby, and the time two England players “threw her up in the line-out” during a visit, she said.

Princess of Wales visit to Maidenhead
Princess of Wales visit to Maidenhead The Princess of Wales is a patron of English Rugby (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Asked about the secret to her long career, she said: “It’s probably just hanging on in there.

“As you get older it’s definitely around looking after your body. I was just driven to always be better every time I came off the field.

“I’ve been part of so many wonderful teams, it’s pretty hard to leave and say goodbye, but I guess everything has to end at some point.”

She continued: “It’s such an honour. I started playing rugby for the love of it and never did I ever imagine that I’d be honoured in this way.

“It’s kind of strange for me because rugby is the ultimate team sport, so being recognised for an individual award is fairly uncomfortable.

“But it certainly ranks right up there in my achievements, I’m immensely proud.”

Asked if she was going to miss playing rugby, Hunter said: “Do you know what, I’m not. I actually enjoy not feeling beaten up and battered.

“I think that’s a really good sign that it was time to leave. I miss the camaraderie but I don’t miss being out there on the pitch.

“England Rugby have got me back in coaching to try and help the next generation of players come through.

“I’m starting on a new journey.”