Hunter can't wait to run out at the Gardens as England take on New Zealand again

Sarah Hunter has never played at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens before, but she will finally get the chance to grace what is now her home from home this week.

By Tom Vickers
Monday, 1st November 2021, 12:37 pm
Updated Monday, 1st November 2021, 12:38 pm
Sarah Hunter with the 2021 Six Nations trophy
Sarah Hunter with the 2021 Six Nations trophy

That is because the England Women’s team, the Red Roses, will square up to their New Zealand counterparts in Northampton on Sunday (kick-off 2.45pm).

It will be a rematch after England claimed a record 43-12 win against the Black Ferns at Sandy Park yesterday.

And for skipper Hunter, it will have extra meaning as her club side, Loughborough Lightning, recently formed a partnership with Saints designed to grow the women’s game.

“I’m really looking forward to it,” Hunter said when asked about the New Zealand fixture in Northampton.

“We’ve been travelling around the country with the Red Roses for a little while so to come to Franklin’s Gardens is really exciting.

“It’s such a hotbed for rugby and it’s such a great stadium to play at.

“I was at the club the other week and I saw how fresh the grass is so to be able to play one of the biggest games we could have, against New Zealand, there is really exciting.

“I’ve never played there but the women’s Premiership final was played there a couple of seasons ago and I know how much the girls enjoyed playing there.

“We’re all looking forward to playing there in a white shirt.”

Hunter is now one of Saints’ women’s rugby ambassadors following the new arrangement with Loughborough.

The team remains named Loughborough Lightning, but the side’s kit now bears the Saints crest and the Gardens will host several Lightning fixtures each season.

And it is a partnership that Hunter is hugely excited about.

“Saints are one of the historic teams in men’s rugby and they’re synonymous with rugby because of what they’ve achieved over time,” she said.

“Loughborough Lightning has been one of the leading teams in the women’s Premiership so it’s great for Saints to partner with us.

“They’re looking to grow the game in Northamptonshire and what’s really pleasing, having spoken to (Saints CEO) Mark Darbon, is the values and ethos of Saints is really strong and what Loughborough live by.

“It’s two strong rugby clubs working together to grow the women’s game and it’s really exciting to see where we can take that.”

While those of a Saints persuasion now keep a closer eye on Loughborough results, the same is true in reverse.

“The girls definitely talk about how the Saints got on and how they’re doing,” Hunter said.

“We certainly watch the games if they’re on TV and the start to the season Saints have had is great.

“In the partnership you want to hold your own and we want to pull our weight as well so hopefully we can turn that around a bit as we go on.

“We haven’t had the best of starts with Loughborough, winning one of five games, which has been frustrating.

“We missed quite a few people through World Cup qualifiers and then a few injuries so we’ve had a fairly young side.

“Playing some of the best sides in the league to start off has been quite challenging but we’ve stayed together as a team, worked through and hopefully we’ve got better and problem- solved things.

“Obviously now we’re in an international break but I feel like we were starting to turn the corner and hopefully when we come back in the end of November we can kick on then.”

Almost 8,000 tickets have already been sold for England's game against New Zealand at the Gardens this weekend.

Tickets can be purchased by clicking here.