Maggie Alphonsi has spoken of her delight after winning the Women's Rugby World Cup final at the third time of asking – and believes the achievement will inspire others to get involved.
The Saracens flanker was part of the England side which lost 13-10 to New Zealand in the 2010 showpiece, while they lost 25-17 to the same opponents in 2006.
However, the 30-year-old and her team-mates prevailed 21-9 over Canada in Paris on Sunday to finally lift the trophy.
Asked if she thought this day would come, Alphonsi, who has overcome a club foot to become a rugby World Cup winner, told Sky Sports: “If I’m honest, yes I did but I didn’t think it would come the way it has.
“It’s been a long journey – you know, went to the World Cup in 2006, got to the final against New Zealand, lost by eight points; got to the final again against New Zealand in 2010 and lost by three points and to get to the final this time around and win it, it has been brilliant.”
New Zealand went out in the group stages this time around and while Alphonsi admitted it was a boost, she believed any team could have won.
“I think we definitely were aware of it but I think we knew that the World Cup has got much more difficult now and any team can effectively win the World Cup,” she said.
“And we saw the performance of Ireland and we knew how good they were going to be against New Zealand. But also we knew about Canada, we knew about Australia and France being the host nation.
“So I think when New Zealand went out, everyone had a little bit of a thought that actually anyone could win this World Cup.
“But for us, we had to just basically beat the next team we played against.”
Alphonsi believes their triumph can inspire the next generation of rugby players.
“What’s been really good, we’ve seen so much media attention from this World Cup, and we’re going to start to see more young girls want to get involved," she said.
“I look at social media all the time and you see young people wanting to be a part of what we’ve achieved so far. So I think going forward now, we’ll see more girls wanting to get involved in the game.
“Winning this World Cup will hopefully will inspire a nation to want to get involved, not just rugby but sport in general because sport can have so much beneficial facts.
“For me it’s increased by confidence, my leadership and I think for the younger people to have that, I will be exactly the same, it will be good for them.”