No less than a rugby icon, the England captain has proudly represented his country 124 times since making his debut for the Red Roses in 2007 after starting a game in the rugby league.
She has been a regular player of the Women’s Six Nations for 14 years, playing in the back row eight wins in the title, including seven Grand Slam successes while wearing the white jersey.
England’s second-best female player of all time and 2014 Rugby World Cup winner, there’s little that the 2016 World Player of the Year didn’t score in the game.
But that hasn’t stopped the 35-year-old from coming back from a career-threatening injury and leading her team back to fight in the 2021 Women’s Six Nations.
TRANSITION OF THE RUGBY LEAGUE
Hunter’s rugby education began at an early age, falling in love with the sport when she was just nine years old after she began traveling to Goathland Elementary School.
After a rugby league demonstration by current Newcastle Falcons director Mick Hogan, Hunter soon began playing outside of school for the Longbenton and Gateshead Panthers.
But the lack of opposition in the area forced her to switch from a rugby league to an alliance at the age of 15, playing for Novocastrians RFC originally as an internal center.
Since then, England U19 coach Phil Forsyth has suggested Hunter try in the back row, and shortly afterwards international recognition followed, as her reputation grew rapidly.
Hunter made her debut in England under the age of 19 in 2003, before moving to Loughborough University a year later to study sports science and mathematics, also joining Lichfield Ladies.
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International recognition for seniors arrived in 2007 when Hunter stepped off the bench in the women’s six nations that year, culminating in the Grand Slam success of the Red Roses.
BECOMING AN ENGLISH REGULAR
After performing four times for England in her first Women’s Six Nations, Hunter continued to play a key role for her country the following year when they made another overflight.
With four more caps during the championship, Hunter also tried to try as the Red Rose achieved three titles in a row – and a third consecutive Grand Slam victory.
Hunter made two more appearances in the championship in 2009, as England retained the title, and also played in the final defeat of the Rugby World Cup against New Zealand in 2010.
That disappointment was quickly set behind her in the 2011 championship, as Hunter played all five games and tried to try while England secured another Grand Slam success.
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She continued with prominent appearances in the back row of England in 2012 and 2013, not missing a single championship, while the Red Roses won the Slam in the first.
But Hunter’s crowning glory arrived in 2014 when he helped his country secure a triple crown before winning the Rugby World Cup final with a victory over Canada.
IT GOES FROM STRENGTH TO STRENGTH
While England missed the title in 2015 and 2016, Hunter went from strength to strength on the field after winning the MBE after his heroes at the World Cup.
She led the Red Roses during six Women’s Nations in 2016 and during all three Super Series matches before being named World Rugby Player of the Year.
Hunter continued her global recognition leading England to Grand Slam glory – and the first title of champion since 2012 – in the 2017 Women’s Six Nations.
Her 100th cap arrived later that year against Canada, while she also led England to the second final of the Rugby World Cup, where the defending champions beat New Zealand.
Since then, Hunter has performed in all six women’s nations for her country and led the Red Roses to back-to-back titles with clean strokes at the 2019 and 2020 championships.
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A neural injury prevented her at the start of the 2021 Championship, but 13 months after her last appearance in England, Hunter came back for his team’s win against Italy in the 2nd round.
And as the Red Roses approach the retention of their title – and another World Cup is on the horizon – the prominent English skipper will soon not be hanging her boots.