Three of England women’s heroes have announced that they will retire from international rugby.
Margaret Alphonsi, Joanna McGilchrist and Katherine Merchant have all ended their playing careers with the national side with immediate effect, following their World Cup victory in August.
The England women beat Canada 21-9 at the Stade Jean Bouin in Paris to claim the title for the second time.
Alphonsi is considered a legend in the women’s game, with over 70 caps to her name for her country.
She made her debut for England back in 2003, against the USA, and has starred in a record-breaking seven consecutive Six Nations tournaments, yet her individual awards are as impressive.
Alphonsi won the Sunday Times Sportswoman of the Year title and the Pat Marshall award in 2010, becoming the first woman to win the latter prize.
The 30-year-old flanker also has an MBE, receiving it in 2012 for her services to rugby, while being awarded an honorary doctoral degree at the University of Bedfordshire for the same reason.
While she will continue her glittering domestic career, it will see an end to an England career where she has starred in three World Cups, losing in the 2006 and 2010 finals to New Zealand, before this summer’s success.
There was high praise from England’s head coach Gary Street of Alphonsi, following the announcement.
“One of the most pleasing things about winning the World Cup is the recognition that Maggie had,” Street told BBC Sport.
“In my eyes she has been a world champion for the 11 years she has been playing for England. She plays every international like it’s a World Cup final.
“It’s only fitting this is now officially recognised with a gold medal.”
Both of Alphonsi’s fellow international retirees, Merchant and McGilchrist did not feature in the 2006 campaign, but were vital in reaching the final four years later, and last month’s victory.
Wasps Lock McGilchrist began her England career against Scotland in 2007, playing a total of 63 matches for her country.
Wing star Merchant has been the main source of tries since her international debut for the Red Rose in 2005, touching down 44 times in her 58 games.
The Worcester flyer is being forced to hang up her boots on medical grounds, after sustaining several concussions during her career.
While she is having to leave, Merchant has no plans to walk away from the sport.
“I very much plan to stay involved in rugby as it is a sport I love. It is a sport that has given me so much and now I have the opportunity to give something back,” the 28-year-old told Sky Sports.
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