England great Heather Fisher retires from rugby
England great Heather Fisher has confirmed that she is retiring from rugby at 37.
An star in both XVs and sevens, she was a member of England’s 2014 World Cup-winning squad, her second of two XVs World Cup appearances.
Her impressive performances in the shorter format of the game saw her called up for the Red Roses squad for the Nations Cup in Canada in August 2009, and she made her debut at open-side flanker in a 36-7 win over USA.
Fisher said: “I’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who has supported my journey, from the RFU, GB Sevens, The National Lottery, family and friends.
“It’s been a rollercoaster of a career. I’m proud of everything I’ve been through, managed to overcome and achieved.
“I’ve had some amazing people alongside me and around me and am eternally grateful for the support I’ve had and would like to say a big thank you to all for believing in me and giving me the opportunities.
“Rugby’s been a great platform to be able to inspire people and change lives. I hope that I will now move on to other things in life and am looking forward to more opportunities to continue to inspire.”
Representing Team GB at the Rio 2016 Olympics, the flanker won a bronze medal with England at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia with a 24-19 victory over Canada.
A two-time Women’s Six Nations Grand Slam winner in 2010 and 2011, Fisher also featured at three sevens World Cups.
She earned her final XVs cap in England’s 15-14 victory over Canada on the summer tour in July 2015. Her final appearance on the sevens circuit came in Sydney in February 2020.
Fisher was named in the initial GB Sevens squad in February 2021 but injury limited her training and playing time.
Fisher ends her impressive career on 27 England Senior Women caps and 81 England Sevens caps.
Former head of England Sevens Amor said: “I’ve known Heather for a very long time, she was one of the first players I worked with when we first put the women’s sevens programme together in 2007.
“To still have been playing international sevens at the top level at her age is absolutely phenomenal and I remember on day one when I first met her I just thought, ‘what a phenomenal athlete and what a wonderful person’.
“Heather is absolutely unique. She’s one of a kind. She’s a tremendous and an outstanding athlete but also a brilliant person, incredibly witty, funny, unique, everything that makes her such a special competitor. That’s what will always remind me of working with her. She always competed at everything. She wanted to be the best all of the time, was driven and her commitment was through the roof.
“Heather’s faced her own challenges and has embraced and overcome some difficult times and never shied away. Sometimes, it would have been easier to step away but she never did, always followed her heart and I think that role modelling, bravery and courage is something that should be applauded.”
Gary Street, head coach during Fisher’s time with the Red Roses said: “I worked with Heather over a 14-year period. She’s the architype of what you see is what you get. There’s no hiding who she is. She was one of the funniest players to be around where you’d be wondering whether she’s going to jump out of a wardrobe while away on tour.
“Heather was also one of the most hardworking players. You don’t go to World Cups, Six Nations, European Championships, succeed in Bobsleigh and compete at the Olympic Games without a massive amount of ability and ability to push yourself through.
“The way she’s kept herself at this level for so long is remarkable, right from being an 18 year old, getting called up to the U20s and into an England squad early. She’s only ever known professional sport. Heather was a professional before players were paid for it – she trained like a professional rugby player when everyone was amateur.
“One of the things that changed women’s rugby in England is the physicality of her and Maggie Alphonsi.
“The fact we could compete against New Zealand, against players who could be that physical and could stand up to opponents who were generally perceived as bigger and stronger athletes was brilliant. We developed a generation that were going to take them on.
“One of Heather’s finest games was probably in 2012 when we played against New Zealand at Twickenham and scored over 30 points, the first time they’d conceded over 30 points. In that game, Heather was a force of nature and we got a lot of confidence from the 2012 series.
“Heather actually ended up playing on the wing against New Zealand in one of the summer tour games of 2015. We had a horrendous injury list and she did a cracking job on the wing. I knew she wouldn’t let us down anywhere, one of the few back rowers who also played on the wing for England.
“I wish her all the best with whatever she does next – I know she’ll do brilliantly and put her heart and soul into everything.”
Former England Women Sevens head coach James Bailey added: “Regardless of the situation or the magnitude of the game, you just knew Heather would give you everything she’d got and as a coach there’s not too much more you can ask for from your players.
“Her ability to impact a game when she was on form and at her best was almost unrivalled. She could really turn a game, almost by herself or make such an impact that it would lift others around her which is an incredible quality to have. That was not only felt and noticed by her teammates but also by the other teams.
“She was someone that I think the great teams on the series loved going toe-to-toe with on the field and would also enjoy her company off it. She is someone who would always have a friendly or jovial chat with other players and was certainly a player-favourite on the series. Something that always sticks out in my mind is that no matter where we went on the series, whatever country or continent, the fans all wanted to meet Heather. For someone to have such an impact on such a level quite often took me by awe.
“From a personal point of view, Heather has a fascinating duality to her. On one side, you have this incredible competitor, who is all over the pitch and gives everything she’s got and on the other side, you’ve got someone who is deeply caring and in the right environment will show her vulnerability which again as a role model is something we don’t always see enough of. We see one side but we don’t often see that other side.
“As her coach back then and now, certainly as a friend, the ability to share both of those moments of elation but also some of the more vulnerable times is something I really cherish. Within sevens and rugby generally for her, she has found a vehicle to express herself and to be a small part of that and help her do that is something I hold closely to heart.”
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