Hunter will make her 141st and final England appearance this Saturday, leaving the sport the most-capped England international of all time after some 19 seasons on a rugby field.
The Loughborough alumna, who has captained both the Allianz Premier 15s side as well as her country throughout her career, made 61 appearances in a Lightning shirt since making her debut against Harlequins back in 2017.
And though the 37-year-old has chosen to call time on her rugby career, Hunter insists she has made memories to last a lifetime.
She said: “Notmany athletes get to choose how and when they call time on their playing careers. I am very fortunate that I have the opportunity to finish on my own terms. I couldn’t think of a better way to do it than in my home town where my rugby journey started.
“I get to finish in a place that has a special place in my heart in front of my friends, family and Red Roses' supporters and I feel very fortunate that I’m able to do that.
“What’s more, to play there in a white shirt, which is something I’ve been immensely proud of, and feel very honoured to have represented my country so many times, feels like an ending I couldn’t look past and I feel very fortunate that I get to do this.
“Most of all, I want to say thank you to everyone - coaches, players, medical staff, managers, staff, volunteers - that has played a part in my journey, whether that’s from when I first picked up a ball at nine-years old or more recently. I am eternally grateful for the help, support, and impact you have had on my career. It’s just been amazing to have so many people support my journey and allow me to be the player and person I am and have the career I have done.
“To play for Novocastrians, Lichfield, Bristol and Loughborough Lightning and for my country has been a special journey that I am so, so grateful that I’ve had and I feel honoured to have worked with some very special people along the way.
“Finally, rugby has been brilliant to play and to represent my country will always be the greatest honour. However, it’s not just about the rugby, it’s about the people you meet along the way and the memories that you create that I will look back on, remember and cherish. I think that’s a very special and unique element of our sport - the people, the friendships you make, the memories you share with one another and the stories will live long past the playing days. They’re the bits I’ll look back on and cherish the most.”
Since making her England debut in 2007, Hunter has featured in 16 Six Nations tournaments, won nine Grand Slams and reached four World Cup finals – lifting the trophy as captain with the Red Roses in 2014.
The back row was awarded an MBE in the 2015 New Year’s honours list and was named World Rugby Women’s Player of the Year in 2016 before moving to Loughborough the following season.
And since studying for her Sports Science and Mathematics degree at Loughborough University, Hunter has gone on to perform a player-coach role within Lightning’s set up.
Loughborough’s Director of Rugby, Rhys Edwards said: “You can’t overstate the contribution of a player like Sarah. She epitomises rugby’s values, has always given 100% every time she’s pulled on the shirt, and brings a huge amount of experience and leadership to any environment she’s in.
“And while Sarah’s lifted countless trophies, she’s had her setbacks too and I think one of the most commendable things about Sarah is that she’s done it all with a smile on her face.
“It’s her dedication and hard work behind the scenes, it’s her constant determination to be better that has seen her go on to become the history-maker and role model we all know now.
“She’s inspired a generation; it’s truly been a pleasure to work alongside her and I know I speak for everyone at Loughborough Lightning and Northampton Saints when I congratulate her on a truly incredible career.”