By Ben Hart, Sportsbeat
Red Roses legend Maggie Alphonsi believes Zoe Aldcroft's true Yorkshire grit can propel England to a third Rugby World Cup title.
The Scarborough star shook off injury to star in the Six Nations and is shaping as a key figure for Simon Middletonâ€™s side in New Zealand.
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Alphonsi compared her impact to that of a fellow loose forward who planted the English flag on top of the rugby world.
She said: "She reminds me a little bit of Richard Hill, if I was going to compare her to a men's player.
"Richard Hill would do so much work and he made such a difference to the outcome of the England men's team back in 2003, but sometimes wouldn't always get all the plaudits for it.
"Zoe is very similar to that. She can play second row, she can play back row, is deceptively quick and gets involved and you can see her around the backs.
"Most forwards would be out their comfort zone being out there, but she takes to it like a duck to water.
"She's also very smart in terms of her knowledge. She knows her set piece, she's a lineout leader."
Aldcroft succeeded team-mate Emily Scarratt as World Rugby Women's 15s Player of the Year after a superb 2021, presented with the award by Alphonsi.
Among the weapons in Middleton's arsenal is a rock-solid set piece which is founded on the aerial dominance of Aldcroft and regular second row partner Abbie Wood.
Alphonsi sees the engine-room duo playing a key role as England aim to unseat hosts New Zealand and claim the biggest prize in the sport.
"Zoe's game is onwards and upwards," added Alphonsi, who was meeting with women and girls who play for National Lottery-supported Haringey Rhinos RFC, to see for herself how National Lottery funding is having a positive impact on female participation at the club.
"If I look at the England second row partnership, she's got a good relationship with Abbie and those two are going to be a real strong team this World Cup.
"I feel like nobody can get a ball past them in the lineout."
Aldcroft left her Scarborough home straight after school and plies her club rugby trade for Gloucester-Hartpury in the south-west.
Her Yorkshire credentials are beyond question and Alphonsi praised the player's stoical nature.
She said: "What I love about Zoe as well is that she wonâ€™t talk about herself. Everyone must talk about her because she's always so considerate of other players.
"Even though sheâ€™s a superstar, she won't talk about how good of a player she is because she's so modest. She's another player who you hope will have an amazing tournament."
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