Sarah Hunter: Packer is a ‘breath of fresh air’
Marlie Packer might have made her England debut back in 2008, but the new Red Roses skipper is still a welcome ‘breath of fresh air’ according to Sarah Hunter.
The back row, 33, has notched an impressive 90 caps for England over her storied career and will now take on the role of the Red Roses’ sole captain following Hunter’s retirement in Newcastle.
Packer and Hunter’s England careers have been intertwined for the past two decades, the Loughborough Lightning player recieving her first cap just one year prior to Packer.
Since then, the two have become close friends, winning six Grand Slams and sharing a room during Hunter’s final camp.
And as England’s most-capped player closed the door on her rugby career with a dominant 58-7 victory against Scotland, she watched on with pride and confidence as Packer took the helm and left a hat-trick of tries in her wake.
“Me and Marlie have been rooming all week,” she said.
“The last two old girls have ended up together and she’s been a breath of fresh air.
“She’s been unbelievable this week, checking in when she needed to and making me laugh.
“She’s an incredible person. She’s an incredible leader. I know she’ll go on and lead this team in a phenomenal way.
“I have said to her to ring me any time she needs, but I told her, ‘just go and be you and the girls will back you’.”
Over the 15 years that Packer and Hunter have been in the Red Roses squad together, the two have seen an incredible rise in the awareness surrounding women’s rugby.
A sell-out crowd of over 10,000 watched the Newcastle native leave the field for the final time at Kingston Park and the Red Roses will host their first-ever stand-alone game at Twickenham Stadium on 29th April, proving just how far women’s rugby has come over the years.
And Hunter has no doubt that her now former teammate will lead the Red Roses and leave an unquestioned legacy in the next few years.
“When you’re young, you want to play for England and to win tournaments, but sport is more than that, especially with where women’s sport is now,” she said.
“It’s about the legacy we want to leave and how as individuals we can drive that to inspire that next generation.
“We’ve just scratched the surface of the women’s game and I’ll hand the baton on to this group of Red Roses now, with Marlie at the helm.
“Now they have a responsibility to move the game forward and make sure we’re continually leaving a big legacy in the women’s game.”