From making a try-scoring debut for England against France in July 2016, Zoe Aldcroft has never looked back.
Equally comfortable in the second row or on the blindside, the 25-year-old has only ever been on the losing side once in 28 test appearances, highlighting her importance to the team.
That solitary defeat came against New Zealand in 2019 but, for the most part, it is Aldcroft who has come out smiling.
And the other day, she was smiling almost in disbelief after receiving the World Rugby Women’s 15s Player of the Year award, in association with Mastercard.
Aldcroft’s name is now etched on the trophy alongside that of England team-mates, Sarah Hunter and Emily Scarratt, as the best women’s player in the world.
“It is absolutely amazing, I cannot put into words how this feels,” she said.
“It’s something I never thought would happen and to be alongside all those names who have won it before is amazing. I have looked up to them myself as role models.
“This is the proudest moment of my career so far.”
Like every other player that has got to the top, Yorkshire-born Aldcroft has had to have support along the way, and the 25-year-old used the proudest moment of her career to thank her family.
“Most importantly I’d like to thank my mum and dad, they made all this happen by driving me all around the country to places, supporting me in every way they can,” she said.
“Also, I’d like to thank to my brother Jonathan for helping me with my extra skills, my boyfriend Luke who has supported me over the last few years, my team-mates here at Hartpury-Gloucester, who I love playing with week in week out, and my England team-mates who push me every single time I’m with them.”
Aldcroft started all eight of England’s matches in 2021 as the Red Roses extended their unbeaten run to 18 tests and won a third successive Women’s Six Nations title.
She signed off the year in style by captaining England for the first time, marking the occasion with a try in an 89-0 win over USA in the last of the November internationals.
But, for her, the best moment of 2021 came at the start of the month. “My highlight of this year was definitely the back-to-back wins against the Black Ferns, it was just amazing to be able to do that and it really has given us a lot of confidence going into next year.”