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England thrash Scotland in women’s Six Nations

England captain Hunter bows out of rugby

NEWCASTLE: England captain Sarah Hunter bowed out of rugby feeling “overwhelmed” as the reigning women’s Six Nations champions began their title defense with a 58-7 thrashing of Scotland on her Newcastle home ground. England ran in 10 tries against an outclassed Scotland, with flanker Marlie Packer, co-skipper for the day, scoring a second-half hat-trick. Saturday’s match brought down the curtain on a remarkable career that saw the retiring Hunter, 37, make 141 Test appearances as the No 8 became the most-capped player in women’s international rugby union.

Hunter, who made her Test debut in 2007, was a member of the Red Roses’ 2014 World Cup-winning squad and led her team to finals in 2017 and 2022, with last year’s defeat by tournament hosts New Zealand ending England’s 30-match unbeaten run. “I am overwhelmed,” Hunter told the BBC. “It’s been such an incredible week and then to have the performance we did and to see the crowd, it’s so, so special. “I can’t think of a better way to end my career.”

Packer added: “I am going to miss Sarah massively. She’s been with me on my whole rugby journey.” Scotland captain Rachel Malcolm paid tribute by saying: “Sarah Hunter is an incredible person and leader…I am very sad not to have the chance to play alongside again her.” Saturday’s fixture was England’s first game since their agonizing World Cup final loss and they were rarely troubled by a Scotland side, who unlike their hosts, have only recently started to become a professional outfit.

A rampant England led 31-0 at half-time, having run in five tries, with left wing Claudia MacDonald and hooker Amy Cokayne both scoring twice, with Tatyana Heard grabbing her first Test try. England, criticized for being overly reliant on the driving maul at the World Cup, made good use of their backs on Saturday, but also saw experienced lock Poppy Cleall power over for a try early in the second half. The one-way traffic continued with Sadia Kabeya scoring a try before fellow back-row Packer’s quickfire treble.

‘Bottle that moment’

Hunter left the field to a standing ovation from a crowd of over 10,000 just before the hour mark. “I didn’t want to milk it but I wanted to thank the fans for coming and supporting me,” she added. “I wanted to bottle that moment and take it all in because I’ll never get that moment again.” With England down to 14 players, having used all their replacements, Scotland full-back Chloe Rollie managed a consolation try six minutes from time.

Earlier, Wales overwhelmed Ireland 31-5 at Cardiff Arms Park, with the host scoring four tries in just 33 minutes to secure a bonus point as Alex Callender, Keira Bevan, replacement Sioned Harries and captain Hannah Jones all crossed the Irish line. Wales added a fifth try when prop Sisilia Tuipulotu powered over in the 46th minute before Ireland captain Nichola Fryday crossed 15 minutes from time. “I’m delighted for the players, they put in so much hard work,” said Wales coach Ioan Cunningham. – AFP

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