England rugby international Natasha Hunt has revealed her excitement to be back involved with the recently-rebranded Red Roses national side ahead of their Old Mutual Wealth International Series.
The Lichfield scrum-half has returned to the England squad for the first time since winning the Women’s World Cup in 2014 after taking two years out to focus on her ambitions to compete in the Rio 2016 Olympic games.
Having made history in Brazil with Team GB, Hunt is thrilled to be back in the England camp ahead of their Autumn Test series.
“I haven’t played for the 15s international side since the last World Cup,” said Hunt. “So to be back on the pitch with all the England squad is really exciting.
“They’re such a great bunch of girls and everyone is really friendly. It’s a great group to be involved in.”
Although Hunt is overjoyed to be involved with the Red Roses after a two-year hiatus, there are no illusions that retaining the World Cup in Ireland next year is the main incentive behind her return.
“It’s everything,” explained Hunt on the importance of defending their 2014 crown. “We’ve never retained it but I think this group is definitely capable of it.
“We’re setting our sights on it and we just going to have the sky as our limit and see how far we can go.
“But it was definitely a big draw to come back in to help the girls achieve our dream. Fingers crossed we can do it.”
Since England triumphed in 2014, the sport has grown at a rate of knots with participation having increased from 15,000 to 25,000 since that World Cup.
The latest RFU initiative has seen the women’s team rebranded as the Red Roses and Hunt believes it will only help the sport grow.
“I think it gives us an identity,” she added. “You saw the impact that the Lionesses had with the England football and it’s similar to that.
“It’s trying to create a brand and identity that links supporters, players, the media and everything into one and encompasses it all.
“When you first get capped, you actually get given a red rose. It’s quite symbolic and you actually have a physical thing to mark the occasion.
“They’ve really thought about the branding. Hopefully it’s just going to increase the popularity of the sport.”