- Alphonsi, McGilchrist and Merchant bow out of international rugby
- All three leave as reigning Women's Rugby World Cup champions
Three of England’s World Cup winners have decided to retire from international rugby.
England flanker Margaret Alphonsi, second row Joanna McGilchrist and wing Katherine Merchant, all of whom started England’s 21-9 World Cup final victory over Canada earlier this month, end their international careers with immediate effect.
Alphonsi, 30, one of world rugby’s best known female players, made her international debut back in 2003 against the USA. Since then, she has gone on to play in three Rugby World Cups and one Rugby World Cup Sevens.
She shared in a record-breaking seven consecutive Six Nations Grand Slams titles. Along the way, the openside flanker amassed an impressive 74 caps and collected an MBE for Services to Rugby. Alphonsi will continue to play for Saracens in the Premiership this season.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to have had a great sporting career and feel it’s the right time to retire now that we are World Champions,” said Alphonsi.
“There are so many great young players coming through, it’s now time for someone else to experience what I have been fortunate enough to have achieved. I have so many special memories playing for England but the best one was winning the World Cup. I can now certainly retire with a smile on my face.”
England Head Coach Gary Street added: “One of the most pleasing things about winning the World Cup is the recognition that Maggie has had. 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 that this is now officially recognised with a gold medal.”
Kat Merchant has played international rugby for nine years, where the 28-year-old has earned 58 caps and has scored an impressive 44 tries for England. The Worcester player, who made her debut against Ireland in the 2005 Six Nations, has excelled in both 15s and sevens, featuring in two World Cups in both forms of the game. Merchant is retiring on medical advice, after sustaining a number of concussions during her career.
Merchant said, “While it is very disappointing to have to retire, I am hugely proud to be part of our World Championship winning team and feel I have achieved what others never will. 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."
Street added: “Kat has been one of the greatest finishers I have ever seen in women’s rugby. Her athleticism, speed and power has set her apart from the rest. Her introduction to Test rugby underlined that when she scored three tries from just three touches of the ball. I have been working with Kat since she was just 16 and she has always worked incredibly hard. I am sure that dedication will be converted into a very successful coaching career.”
Lock McGilchrist, 31, has also been a stalwart for England, earning her 63rd and final cap against Canada in the Rugby World Cup final. She also featured in the 2010 Rugby World Cup in London as well as several Six Nations Grand Slam winning championships. The talented Wasps forward made her debut against Scotland in 2007 and scored six Test tries.
“It was a great honour to play for England,” said McGilchrist. “I have many fond memories but the highlight is, of course, winning the World Cup. The direction in which the game is now going is really exciting, as are the opportunities it will provide.”
“Jo has broken the mould as a second row player,” added Street. “She has given us a second row and back row player in one. Her athleticism and pace is second to none and that was highlighted as a defining moment in the 2010 RWC final when she mae a try-saving tackle on Carla Hohepa. She has been world class in all aspects of her game and she will be sorely missed.”