ONE of the country’s most accomplished female rugby union players has visited a Bradford school to inspire young women.

Maggie Alphonsi visited Hanson School in Swain House yesterday, speaking to girls from Years 9 to 13 about her life and how she reached the top of her sport.

And she told the Telegraph & Argus that she could see herself in many of the girls she spoke to on the day.

Mrs Alphonsi, 34, was a flanker for Saracens W.R.F.C. and for the English national team that won the 2014 World Cup. She retired shortly after, and has since become one of the top female TV sports pundits.

In 2015 she became the first ever former female player to commentate on men’s international rugby when she was signed up by ITV for the Rugby World Cup.

She was raised on a council estate in London, and during her visit to Hanson she spoke about her love of rugby led to her rise from a disadvantaged background to a sporting hero.

She hopes her story might inspire girls at the school, many of which come from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Kate Hodson, Director of student engagement, said: “She spoke to the pupils about how she has worked through diversity, including growing up with a single parent, to achieve what she has in her career.

“She was struggling in secondary school until a PE teacher put a rugby ball in her hands.

“It was a really inspiring talk, it shows that just because you live in Bradford or a council estate in London, that doesn’t stop you from achieving great things.

“The girls all got to ask her questions afterwards and she was absolutely fantastic with them, telling them they can be the person they want to be.

“She is an incredible female role model.”

Mrs Alphonsi told the T&A: “I was telling the students they can be whatever they want to be. But also that you do experience failure on the way. It is all part of stepping out of your comfort zone.

“I also highlighted the achievements of some other amazing people who are real role models.”

When asked if she saw herself in the girls she spoke to, she said: “Most definitely. At school I was distant and uninterested, not just with education - I didn’t have any goals.

“A teacher believed in me, and helped lead me down the path of rugby. I highlight how important it can be having someone who believes in you. I can see myself in a lot of these girls. It is about finding what makes you tick, and it is important to find someone who will support that.

“I told them it is about overcoming failure, and knowing it is not always easy.”