Hunter reflects on 'special' Six Nations swansong
Sarah Hunter admitted she could hardly have asked for a better international swansong after England cruised past Scotland in their TikTok Women’s Six Nations opener, writes Paul Martin.
The veteran No.8 led England out in the last of her 141 international matches and received a standing ovation when substituted on the hour mark.
Marlie Packer’s hat-trick headlined England’s 10-try haul as the Red Roses made a successful start to the defence of their crown in Hunter’s home city of Newcastle.
An emotional Hunter said: “I’m overwhelmed, it has been such an incredible week.
“To put in the performance we did is so special. I couldn’t think of a better way to end my career.
“When I came off, I just wanted to bottle that moment as I’ll never get that again. The crowd was insane.”
A dream finale for @sarah_hunter8 pic.twitter.com/DpCSUT0efy
— TikTok Women's Six Nations (@Womens6Nations) March 25, 2023
Claudia MacDonald and Amy Cokayne each scored twice at Kingston Park while Tatyana Heard, Poppy Cleall and Sadia Kabeya also crossed in England’s first match since the World Cup final defeat against New Zealand.
Chloe Rollie ensured Scotland had the final word but her late score did little to take the shine off Hunter’s day, one which provided further evidence as to the journey the sport has been on during her time as a Red Rose, with a sell-out crowd present to give a fitting send off to one of their own.
“I have such an appreciation for everything we’ve been through,” she said.
“We’ve tried to increase the standard and keep pushing. The girls still in the squad will take that mantle on and take it to the next level.
“The young girls around here will want to be a Red Rose and I’m really proud of playing a small part in that.”
Hunter was part of a pack who proved too strong for Scotland, with each of Packer’s near-identical tries coming from the tried and tested rolling maul which remains a hallmark of Simon Middleton’s side.
But the hat-trick hero, who completed her treble inside the space of nine second-half minutes, felt England showed signs of broadening their horizons as they begin a new cycle.
“We wanted to play with a bit more tempo,” Packer said. “You didn’t see so much boot to ball, which is credit to both Holly [Aitchison] coming in and how the girls want to play.
“It’s a whole new group of girls, we came together three weeks ago and took things back to basics. I’m super proud of what we’ve achieved.”
On her retiring co-captain, Packer added: “Sarah is an amazing rugby player and an amazing human.
“I have been rooming with her and we had quite a laugh last night. She puts that red rose first all the time and I just hope she has enjoyed this week.
“The legacy she’s left behind is incredible and we want to continue that.”
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