Rugby World Cup: Former England captain Karen Almond finally lifts trophy after 28-year wait

Nearly 30 years ago, Karen Almond captained England to Rugby World Cup glory, but it was a whole different game back then.

Because the tournament wasn't sanctioned by World Rugby, Almond has never seen nor held the trophy she earned - until now. 

Almond has waited 28 years for this moment, seeing the trophy she should have lifted in the flesh for the first time.

"Immense pride, very proud," Almond told Newshub. "I'm going to probably cry."

Almond captained England to victory at the 1994 World Cup in Scotland, but the then-IRB never sanctioned that or the 1991 tournament, so they weren't recognised on the trophy.

Pioneers of the women's game have always struggled with that snub. 

"Women's rugby was very much in its infancy," Almond added. "We were very independent, trying to build the sport, while trying to be recognised by a very male-dominated sport."

World Rugby endorsed the tournament a decade ago and the trophy was finally engraved just a month ago. 

"It's been really cool to know that we are now finally on the trophy," said Almond.

This is a chance to reflect on how far the women's game has come, with today's players thriving in the professional era.

"The girls of today are so fortunate that they can play at such an early age," said Almond.   

England celebrate their victory at the 1994 Rugby World Cup
England celebrate their victory at the 1994 Rugby World Cup. Photo credit: Getty Images

Surrounded by her friends, family and former Black Ferns, Almond was given her surprise. 

So with the upcoming World Cup starting here in just under three weeks, where do her allegiances lie?

"I'm taking a New Zealand shirt and an England shirt," she added.

But for now, Almond is the winner, after getting the chance to finally do what she couldn't all those years ago.

Catch the Rugby World Cup 2021 live on Spark Sport and free-to-air on Three, or join Newshub for live updates of the Black Ferns campaign