England Rugby have announced the retirement of two of England’s Women’s Rugby World Cup winners from international rugby.
Prop Sophie Hemming and second row Rebecca Essex, who both starred in England’s 21-9 World Cup final victory over Canada in August, will hang up their international boots with immediate effect.
Hemming, 34, has proved herself to be a world class tight-head prop since making her debut in 2007. She has since gone on to amass an impressive 71 caps, compete in several winning Six Nations campaigns and two Rugby World Cups.
Hemming said: “This has not been a decision that has been easy to make but having achieved my goal of winning the World Cup I feel the time is right to stand aside and allow some of the hugely talented youngsters to take the tight head shirt on to the next level in preparation for the 2017 World Cup.
“I have had so many fantastic memories and experiences along the way, from scoring two tries against Canada last year, the World Cup final and hearing a chorus of ‘Swing Low’ as we stepped off the team bus in front of hundreds of family and friends after we’d won the World Cup. And although I will miss the international scene dearly, I hope to stay involved in the England set-up in some capacity as a coach or mentor.”
England Head Coach Gary Street added: “Sophie epitomises hard work. During her rugby career she has transformed herself into one of the most talented props in the world while remarkably balancing a demanding career as a vet. I think Sophie is a tremendous example of what you can achieve if you really want it enough.”
Essex, meanwhile, has also gone on to enjoy a hugely successful international career collecting 57 caps in five years. The 31-year-old made her debut in 2008 and can play in the second and back row but she has now decided to concentrate on her career as a special needs teacher at Linden Bridge School in Surrey.
“Winning the World Cup was certainly the best way to end my career,” said Essex. “The last eight years within the England set-up has been amazing and I have many memories and friendships that I will keep forever. It has been an honour to represent my country and to be part of the World Cup winning team. It is also fantastic to see the game benefitting from the World Cup win, both at grassroots and elite level with more and more women and girls taking up the game.”
Street added: “Becky is another one of our incredible generation of players who have balanced demanding jobs with playing international rugby. Becky has also been one of our most consistent players and her versatility, of being able to play anywhere in the back five, has certainly added extra dimensions to the way we have played as a squad.”
Both Hemming and Essex will continue to play Premiership rugby for Bristol and Richmond respectively.