Catherine Spencer, who most recently led England to the 2010 Women’s Rugby World Cup Final, has decided to step down as England Captain ahead of the new international season at the age of 31.
Spencer was England’s captain for three seasons, taking over the captaincy armband in 2007 from Susan Day.
Since then the Bristol No.8 has led England to three successive RBS 6 Nations titles, two Nations Cup crowns and last year’s Rugby World Cup final which England narrowly lost 13-10 to reigning world champions New Zealand.
Spencer, who remains in the England Elite squad and plans to be involved in next month’s RBS 6 Nations championship, said: “My decision to stand down as England Captain has, without doubt, been one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make.
"I have become very attached to the captaincy over the last three years so it is extremely hard to let go of something that I care very deeply about.
"There are many reasons why I would dearly love to continue being England Captain but the time is right for me to step down. I am very determined to keep playing for England and to perform to the best of my abilities. I believe that I still have the potential to improve as a player and will be working very hard to make new gains.
"There have been many highs during my time as England Captain both on and off the pitch. From attending various dinners and functions to leading England to victory over New Zealand at Twickenham in November 2009.
"I have felt extremely proud of captaining this England team; their hard work and determination and the manner in which they have represented their sport to an ever increasing audience is truly inspiring.”
Spencer added: "I wish my successor all of my support; only when they become England Captain will they fully understand what an incredible honour it is and only then will they experience the amazing emotions that come with leading an England team out on to a pitch.”
England Head Coach Gary Street added: “I would personally like to thank Catherine for the excellent way she has conducted herself on and off the pitch - she has been a fantastic role model for any aspiring player.
"This season gives Catherine the opportunity to concentrate purely on her rugby and I am sure she will support the new captain and continue to be an inspiring influence in the squad.”
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