Maggie Alphonsi MBE
Representative Hons: England 63 caps
I first started playing rugby at school at the age of 14 years old. I got into rugby through my PE teacher, Lisa Burgess. I took to it like a duck to water and I haven't left since. My hobbies are road cycling which I try to do in my spare time.
What the RFU say about her: Born with a club foot, Margaret, known by many as Maggie the Machine, has turned early adversity into a remarkable career which has seen the Saracens openside flanker be awarded an MBE in the 2012 Queen's Birthday Honours for services to rugby, something the experienced player described as 'incredible'.
Margaret is the perfect sportswoman and as well as putting in endless fine performances for England, she also works as an Athlete Mentor Manager for the Youth Sport Trust and is an ambassador for the 2015 World Cup in England.
Maggie has also picked up a number of other high-profile awards, so many in fact that she must have had to buy a new trophy cabinet to house them all. In 2011, she was awarded an honorary doctoral degree from the University of Bedfordshire for her services to rugby, she has been named in the Powerlist for three years running, a highly respected publication which profiles 100 of the most influential people of African and African-Caribbean descent in Britain. Oh, yes, there was also the Sunday Times sportswoman of the year prize and the prestigious Pat Marshall award from the Rugby Union Writers' Club where she pipped New Zealand captain, Richie McCaw to the gong to become the first woman to claim the prize in its 50-year history.
Born in Lewisham, South London, Maggie turned to rugby as a 14 year-old. Had she not had an operation on her right foot early in her life, she would have been able to compete in Paralympic sports. Instead, she became obsessed with physical fitness. "I look back now and think, 'Oh God, I should have got a life.' Everyone else was enjoying break time and I was pounding away on a treadmill," she once admitted.
England rugby fans should be thankful that she did that rather than hop, skipping and jumping in the playground or disappearing round the back of the bike sheds. Her dream was to become the best No 7 in the world and that’s something she has managed to do with a host of brilliant and fearless performances for club and country. She has played in two World Cups and in 2012 shared in a record-breaking seventh successive Six Nations title and a sixth Grand Slam in seven years. You perhaps won’t be surprised to read that her hero growing up was Mohammed Ali. "He had huge confidence and self-belief. He was also very determined and stuck by his values," Maggie said. But not even the world's greatest boxer could pluck out a tune or two on the electric and acoustic guitar like Maggie can. She used to be in a band, too, almost proving that there is no end to the 29 year-old's talents.