England’s 2014 Rugby World Cup-winning captain Katy Daley-Mclean has decided to retire from international rugby to spend more time with her family.
The 34-year-old fly-half, who has a 16-month old daughter, has played in four World Cups and won nine Six Nations titles, accumulating 116 caps.
Her greatest hour was lifting the World Cup trophy in Paris six years ago.
She told BBC Sport: “I’m really at peace with the decision and, honestly, I couldn’t have asked for more.”
With England targeting the World Cup in New Zealand next autumn, her decision will shock many in the rugby world as she is arguably playing some of the best rugby of her career.
In 2019 she was one of five women nominated for the World Rugby Player of the Year award and this year she helped England secure back-to-back Six Nations Grand Slams.
She made the decision after the Red Roses squad received their training calendar for 2021.
“Basically I looked at it and I thought I don’t want to be away from her (daughter Addie) this long,” she said. “I don’t want to do this any more.
“Once I’d opened that box to think about those things like drive and motivation I just knew it wasn’t for me any more.”
She will forever be remembered for leading the side to victory in the 2014 World Cup final against Canada and ending a 20-year wait for England to lift the title.
When announcing her retirement, Daley-Mclean revealed she turned down the offer for Jonny Wilkinson to present the England women with their match shirts the night before the final. “I just said to Gary Street (the head coach in 2014) ‘we don’t need anyone else, everything we need is in this room’.”
‘My story doesn’t get any better than this’
Having made her England debut in 2007, Daley-Mclean’s last game for the Red Roses was against France at Twickenham in November, when she captained the side in the absence of regular skipper Sarah Hunter and became the third most-capped England player of all time behind Hunter and Rochelle Clark.
After making the decision to retire with the support of her wife, the toughest person to tell was her dad who has driven her to training since she was five and travelled the world to watch her play.
“Just massive disappointment for him – he loves it,” said Daley-Mclean, who was born in South Shields. “He’s always been part of it and I think it was a bit like I’d retired him as well.
“You forget how much your parents invest in you and the highs and lows that have hit me, hit them as well. But I’ve told him ‘don’t worry, we’ll be in the stands with a beer now’.”
Daley-Mclean will continue in her role as player-coach at Sale Sharks women and despite being a qualified primary school teacher, is now considering coaching as her new career path.
She is open about her desire to expand her family and is just happy to be ending her international career on her terms. “It’s an athlete’s dream,” she said. “I don’t think anyone sits down and plans retirement but in the last two to three weeks when I’ve thought about it, my story doesn’t get any better than this.”