Major teams: College Rifles, Auckland
Country: New Zealand
Test span: 1990-2010
Perhaps the most accomplished women’s rugby player ever to grace the game, Anna Richards won the last of her four World Cups as a 45-year-old in 2010, pulling the strings from fly-half to bring her stellar career to a fitting finish.
While her sublime passing ability and unmatchable vision in the No 10 shirt were her hallmark, her coolness under pressure stands out most from her years in the game. That was evident in abundance at the 2010 World Cup. Called up as a last-minute replacement, she was masterful throughout the tournament, using her astute brain and nous to guide New Zealand through a tough final against England at the Stoop to prove that age is no barrier to class.
The rarity at which New Zealand play Internationals between World Cups means that, despite her longevity, Richards’s cap tally hit just 49, but her brilliance will be remembered for years to come.
Having played representative tennis and netball, she took up the game belatedly at 21 before debuting for the Black Ferns in 1990. She was also a vital cog in the Auckland team – the dominant force in the women’s game in New Zealand for some years – and, in fact, she was never beaten in her NPC career.
Richards was one of the first female players to be inducted into World Rugby’s Hall of Fame and she’s now head coach of the Hong Kong women’s sevens team. She’s the first professional coach to take charge of the ambitious Asian side and, true to form, her charges have come on significantly over the past year.
In a distinguished career, which also included club rugby stints in Italy and England, Richards is a true legend of the women’s game.