Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Maggie Alphonsi dreams of following England World Cup rugby triumph with ...

She knows she is aiming high, that it might turn out to be nothing more than a

pipe dream, but Alphonsi’s mental strength is such that you would hesitate

to bet against her.

A junior champion at discus and shot put, she is now toying with the idea of

returning to the sports of her youth and seeing how far she can take them.

“People always say that if your mind is there then your body will take it

the rest of the way,” she explained.

Not that she expects to walk right in. Spend any time with Alphonsi and you

soon appreciate that the ferocious determination that sustained her for more

than a decade at the top of rugby, through heartbreaking World Cup final

defeats and a near-crippling knee injury, is balanced by the touching

humility she will unquestionably need as she takes the baby steps of the

next phase of her sporting journey.

“I want to be competitive,” Alphonsi said. “The world is my oyster at the

moment. I’m at the point where I’m content with what I’ve achieved and the

question of being the best is not a stress any more. But if I get the

opportunity in another sport then the mindset is still going to be there.

“As a thrower, I think I still hold a record at under-16 level. I look at it

and I haven’t done it for a long time, so I would just have to see where I’m

at. I’m not fooling myself because I know there are a lot of top throwers in

Great Britain at the moment.

“I can only put myself out there and see what happens. You never know. Rio is

still two years away. If it was an option then I might go for it, but I

would be competing against some pretty top athletes and I have to be


Alphonsi delayed her retirement decision until after the World Cup, clinched

in tumultuous circumstances with a 21-9 final victory over Canada just over

three weeks ago, was safely secured.

“To be honest, before the World Cup I knew in my heart that this would

probably be my last,” she said. “But then, if we had lost it then my mind

and my body would probably have been saying ‘keep going’. It was good to get

it done, go off on holiday, and make up my mind.”

Of course, there was also a massive irony. England’s victory captured hearts

as their team of amateurs seemed to embody so many of rugby’s old Corinthian

values. In its aftermath, the Rugby Football Union confirmed that 20 of the

players were to be awarded professional contracts, allowing them to train


Few would dispute the suggestion that Alphonsi, who was made an MBE for her

services to the sport in 2012, had done more than any other individual to

make that possible.

But she can still enjoy the afterglow. On Tuesday, she and her England

team-mates attended a reception at Downing Street to honour their World Cup


While she has gone from the international stage, she remains the highest

profile woman player in the country, a status she will put to good use over

the next year as she joins Lawrence Dallaglio, Will Greenwood and Jonny

Wilkinson as an ambassador for next year’s Rugby World Cup. The men’s

version, that is.

Through her involvement with Saracens, she is also determined to raise the

profile of the women’s game still further.

“That’s the future for women’s rugby,” Alphonsi said. “At the moment, there is

a lot of attention at international level, which is brilliant, but to help

to continue to develop the sport we have to increase the coverage at

grass-roots and club level. A lot of the women’s clubs are associated with

men’s clubs and there is a great opportunity to promote the game.”

But would a clean break from rugby not have made more sense? Does she harbour

a fear that she will regret her decision to step down from the international

stage when her team-mates go off to England camps?

She can see the danger. “I would like to think I will still have the same

mindset that I do now. I might have a little feeling of wanting to be back

involved, but I think I will still be content with my decision. But then,

never say never. As long as you’re playing you can always come back, you can

always come out of retirement. Who knows?”

Article source: http://www.therugbypaper.co.uk/featured-post/15789/bristol-join-tug-of-war-for-wales-prop-star/

Maggie Alphonsi dreams of following England World Cup rugby triumph with ...

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