Sarah Hunter says inspiring the next generation will be vital for World Cup finalists England
"I think women's sport can really inspire the next generation of future England sporting greats. We have to get behind that and ensure that it happens," - England captain Sarah Hunter; the Red Roses created a 30-match winning streak before a heart-breaking World Cup final loss
Last Updated: 16/11/22 4:35pm
England captain Sarah Hunter says she hopes the recent Rugby World Cup in New Zealand will continue to inspire the next generation and help produce future English sporting greats.
Hunter has now returned to England after the Red Roses' 30-match winning streak ended due to a 34-31 loss to New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup final.
England produced a determined performance after going down to 14 players inside the first quarter of the match when Lydia Thompson was sent off for a high tackle.
With 42,579 fans in the stands, Eden Park was sold-out for the final and the six-week tournament in New Zealand marked another significant stepping stone for the women's game.
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Hunter, while still processing the hurt of a Rugby World Cup final defeat, is eager that the next generation are inspired by the competition.
"I spoke before the World Cup started and said it could be the biggest, best and most competitive World Cup there has ever been, and it didn't let us down," England's captain said. "It feels like we have to get on the back of it, we have to get on the back of women's sport.
"The Lionesses winning Euro 2022, us falling short in a World Cup final, but hopefully what these teams can show are incredible role models. Role models, not only for young girls but young boys too, so they can be inspired to go on and play sport.
"Not just that, but to have dreams and believe that whatever they set their minds to they can achieve. We've all been those little human beings running around and we've reached the absolute peak and ultimate of our professions," Hunter continued.
"I think women's sport can really inspire the next generation of future England sporting greats. We have to get behind that and ensure that it happens."
Hunter has now played for England 140 times and en route to the final against New Zealand became England's most-capped player by surpassing the previous caps record held by Rocky Clark.
The 37-year-old No 8 isn't ruling out further caps for her country or continuing to lead England. If asked, she'll gladly take up the role of captain once again.
"Being captain of your country is the biggest honour I think anyone could ever ask you as a sporting player. I've got no idea what I'm going to do next, I'll take some time and think about it," Hunter said.
"We've got a club season around the corner, Six Nations around the corner and again, I don't get to choose whether I get to be captain of my country, I get the honour of being asked to do that.
"Do I want to be? I'd love to be captain of my country. Absolutely, if someone asked me to do it, I'd 100 per cent want to be captain of this country."
The next Rugby World Cup will take place in England and Hunter hopes that their work over the past six weeks will continue to boost the prominence of the women's game in the country.
"It's the most exciting three-year period ahead of us. We've seen what a home World Cup is like in New Zealand and with where we are in the women's game, hopefully that was a watershed moment and people will get behind us," she said
"There are 20,000 people who have bought tickets for our home game at Twickenham against France in the Six Nations. Then, we're talking about three years' time... the prospect of playing at a sold-out 82,000 Twickenham, playing in a World Cup final in your own country, it's what little girls and boys dream of."
Kildunne: It's created a hunger like no other
Ellie Kildunne, one of England's try-scores in the final, said that falling short at the last hurdle has hit the players hard, but also that it's increased their levels of motivation.
"Whenever something big happens, the passion is still there to win like we wanted to do before. Now, we've all just got to wait another few years to be able to do that," Kildunne said.
"It's brought us together closer as a team, it's really highlighted how much it means to us individually. For a lot of us, it was our first World Cup and for a lot of the team it was a first loss in an England shirt which credits the team's success.
"It's just created a hunger like no other… I wish we had another World Cup next year," she added.
"As soon as the game finished and we went back to the changing rooms, even though I was knackered, I wanted to get ready and go and play again. I was thinking, it's not over, it's not over yet," Kildunne continued.
"It's created a motivation that was always there, even if we were successful on the day, that motivation would always be there but it's a hunger in the belly we'll all have now."