- Sarah Hunter and Rochelle Clark become MBEs
- Paul Murphy, John Atkinson and Michael Williamson get British Empire Medals
World Cup-winning England pair Sarah Hunter and Rochelle Clark have received MBEs in the New Year’s Honours List for services to rugby – while former RFU chairman and president Paul Murphy and long-standing rugby volunteers John Atkinson and Michael Williamson get British Empire Medals.
Forwards duo Hunter and Clark were both part of the victorious team that were crowned World Champions for the first time in 20 years in August after England defeated Canada 21-9 in the final in front of 20,000 people.
No 8 Hunter has 68 caps and has scored 17 tries for her country. She has led England on several occasions too, including the 2013 Six Nations championship and more recently against Spain and Canada at the World Cup.
The 29 year-old has competed in two Women’s Rugby World Cups, including the 2010 final defeat to New Zealand. She, however, played a vital role in reversing that defeat four years later to take the converted World Cup crown at the Stade Jean Bouin in Paris. Hunter also works as a RFU University Rugby Development Officer in the South West.
Sarah Hunter MBE said: “It’s a massive honour to be recognised in this way. As a team we have enjoyed incredible success and I’m so proud to be a part of that.
“This is for everyone who has been involved in my journey along the way – from when I started playing at the age of nine all the way through to winning the World Cup this summer. It’s the medics who get you onto the pitch, my family who have been incredible throughout and of course all of the players and coaches.
“It’s a real team effort and it’s been a massive whirlwind since we won the World Cup – it hasn’t sunk in yet and to have this award on top is surreal. It’s such an honour.”
Clark, meanwhile, is England’s most capped current player with 95 appearances for her country and she is England’s second most capped player of all time – a hugely impressive achievement given her front-row position. The prop is a veteran of three World Cups but like Hunter she had to wait until August of this year to be able to call herself a world champion.
Clark, 33, mixes her rugby playing with her role as Head Coach of the Chesham Stags and Bucks University teams.
She said: “I feel hugely honoured and proud to receive this award and would like to thank my family, and in particular my mum for driving me around, my friends and all the coaches along the way for supporting me. And a special mention to [England Women’s Forwards Coach] Graham Smith for making me the player I am today.
“If you had asked me in 2003 – when I got my first cap – if I would become a world champion and receive an MBE I wouldn’t have believed it, but 11 years on it’s all happened at once. What a year 2014 has been, and I still feel I have lots to give on and off the field.”
Hunter and Clark join World Cup winning captain Katy Mclean as the three players within the current squad to be honoured in the New Year’s Honours List.
Mr Murphy BEM, whose playing career took in Oxford, Abingdon, and Oxfordshire, served on the RFU Council as Oxfordshire’s representative from 1995 to 2011 before serving as chairman in 2011-12 and president in 2012-13.
He said: “This is a huge and unexpected honour and one that I am extremely proud to receive, but would like to underline that I have had tremendous support from many colleagues during my time in the game, and I feel this is acknowledgement of their efforts as much as mine.
“Like me tens of thousands of rugby union volunteers deliver our sport, its core values, and enjoyment week in week out during the season, for what to me is the greatest team sport in the world.
“As for the RFU, I am proud to have played a small part in helping it evolve into the modern, progressive, forward thinking organisation it now is, ready for the biggest year in its history. 2015 offers the chance to create a lasting legacy for the game and I am confident we can make the most of it, hopefully with an England win too.”
Mr Atkinson BEM played for 20 years for Hertford Rugby Club with nine years as captain and had 23 games for Hertfordshire in the County Championships. He was president of Hertford RFC for three years and was also president of Herts Rugby Football Union.
Atkinson has worked behind the scenes, refereed, and been a club committee member and a fixture secretary for more than 10 years.
He added: “It’s a great honour and I’m extremely flattered, I must thank everybody in Hertfordshire Rugby with whom I have worked and become good friends with over the years.”
Michael Williamson has also received a British Empire Medal for services to Winscombe Rugby Club and the community in North Somerset.