A moment to reflect, but then time to focus on the future for Mo Hunt
Gloucester-Hartpury Women's News
21 November 2019
Aside from the usual highlight of representing her country and proudly wearing the Red Rose of England, Saturday will be a very special day for Mo Hunt.
The Red Roses bring their Autumn international campaign to a close in Saturday’s Quilter international against Italy at Bedford’s Goldington Road, and for Gloucester-Hartpury’s captain, it’s a significant milestone as she wins her 50th cap.
Mo has competed in Rugby World Cups and in the Olympics and, taking a break from preparing for the Italy game, admitted that reaching her half-century is not something she set out to achieve and that it will be an emotional moment when she takes the field.
“You never really know how many times you’re going to play, as it’s so competitive at international level especially in an environment like we have at England.
“It’s a huge honour to be honest and, to do it alongside so many good mates, makes it a very special thing.
(Laughs) “I think you’ll see tears streaming down my face to be honest. Last weekend, I made eye contact with my Mum and Dad just before the national anthem down in Exeter and I couldn’t sing! I just choked up completely!
“Everyone who knows me, knows that I’m a heart on the sleeve kind of girl so I think I might be a little bit emotional, but I’ll be fine when the whistle blows and it’s down to business.”
She was first capped back in 2011, and a lot of water has flowed under the bridge since then. With the benefit of hindsight, how does she think things have changed?
“Not many of the girls have moved on to be honest – I’m still playing alongside quite a few of them. I think the main thing that has evolved is how professional we all are as a unit.
“But not massively so. We’ve always had really high standards and, whenever you pull the rose on, those standards are upheld and that’s passed on to each generation. We’ve always been pretty driven as a squad in that respect and had high standards of each other.
“The biggest thing might actually be the places that we stay. We’re not at an RAF base any more with the greatest of respect, it was class at the time. But now we’re staying in high quality hotels.
“There’s also a lot more interest in what we’re doing from outside the set-up, a lot more media coverage, for example. The women’s game enjoys a higher profile now than it ever has.”
As she closes in on her 50th cap, she already has a decent body of work to look back on. But she doesn’t hesitate when asked to name a highlight.
“It has to be 2014 and the whole World Cup campaign. Not necessarily winning in the final, but the whole build-up to the tournament was just epic, it was really good fun.
“We all just really enjoyed each other’s company, the weather was decent and we were allowed to train in vests for example. It was just a really good time in our lives.
“The food room and team room at the hotel were all quite open, so we had a lot of common space we could all spend time in and we were just really tight as a unit and it all came together on the pitch.
“Another highlight is actually a little bittersweet, because it was when I was sent home injured from this summer’s USA tour. All the girls were so lovely, they were going off to play France the day I flew and the last time I saw them was before they went off for their team meeting and the likes of Hannah Botterman, Poppy Cleall and Marlie Packer burst into song for me! I can’t even remember the song but they were tapping on the walls and belting it out – it was a really special moment.”
And the list of positive influences during her time with England is a senior one, and Mo apologies in advance if she misses anyone out!
“Obviously Emily Scarratt, because she’s been with me from the start since we were both in the U20s. We’ve had a bit of a bromance from the off. She’s been a bit of a rock for me because she’s so level headed as a character. Nothing really phases her, she’s quite chilled with everything, has great perspective and has been a real go-to for me over the years.
“My current room-mate is Marlie Packer, she’s an absolute queen and I love spending time with her. She’s someone you go to if you need laughs, or if you need some advice or if you need someone to tell you exactly how it is.
“I was housemates with Sarah Hunter and Katy Daley-Mclean who have been huge influences. Kay Wilson was my old room-mate and has been class for me as well. There have been so many, almost too many to mention.
“Katy is also a quality ten to play alongside, as was Alice Richardson-Watmore. They’ve really helped me learn the ropes at international level. Giselle Mather, my coach at U20 level, helped instill work-rate and a team ethic into us and my family have been brilliant for keeping me grounded and listening to me whenever I needed to talk.
“They’ve all played a part, I’m bound to have left some out! I’ve made so many good friends, they’ll be mates for life and I love them all to bits.”
However, although we’ve dipped into nostalgia, it’s important to remember that reaching 50 caps isn’t the end, or even the beginning of the end. There’s a lot of rugby left in Mo and she’s still got ambitions to achieve.
“I said recently that my aspiration is to play a huge role within this Red Roses squad. I want to be one of the first names on the team sheet, I want to do everything I can to make this squad tick.
“It’s not been all straightforward since I came back from Sevens. I’ve been injured at times and not always playing, but I really want to put myself in the best place to help this squad as much as I can.
“And, ultimately, being on the plane and heading to New Zealand in 2021 is a massive goal for me and fingers crossed I can achieve that.”
Finally, if the Mo Hunt of today, about to win her 50th cap for England, had one bit of advice for the Mo Hunt winning her first cap back in 2011, what would it be?
“Just go with your instincts. Coaching is important, so is a way of playing. But you get to where you are because of your natural ability and instincts. You have to fit into systems and structures, but don’t lose your flair.”
Sound advice. Congratulations Mo and here’s to many more!