MAGNIFICENT mum Emma Croker is on top of the world after she and her England team-mates won the World Cup.
The 31-year-old, who plays as a hooker for Richmond, had her husband and two- and-a-half-year-old daughter Lucy cheering her on in the French capital – and she said playing rugby is easy when compared to her traumatic experience of giving birth to her daughter.
The PE teacher, who needed an emergency Caesarean section after being diagnosed with pre-eclampsia, said: “Rugby is never going to be as painful after childbirth.”
Incredibly, Croker returned to playing just four months after the birthing drama. And on Sunday, she and her team- mates wiped out the pain of losing in the World Cup final in 2010 by lifting the trophy.
Croker said: “It was a great experience and I am still coming to terms with our success. It is so surreal.”
Husband James, who was in Paris for the whole tournament, said: “It has been really great, and it was brilliant to see England win. I am really proud of Emma.”
Croker came on for the final 13 minutes of the victory and played a part in all of the games on the way to the historic triumph last Sunday.
Croker said: “It was really nerve-racking sitting on the bench, but it was great to be on the pitch at the end.
“For some of the girls, they had lost in the last three cup finals so it was great for them to finally win.
“It is certainly the best moment of my career so far and something I will never forget.”
The 31-year-old had tasted defeat in the final four years ago, so was really to delighted to be part of the winning team this time around.
She also was a travelling reserve in 2006 when England, as they have done in the last three World Cups before Paris, came off second best to New Zealand.
Unlike their male counterparts, all the players have day jobs and are only reimbursed for the days they have taken off work as payment.
In the 20,000-strong crowd in Paris for the final was her husband James and daughter Lucy as well as friends and family, which made the historic victory extra special for the PE teacher.
England took an 11-0 lead in the first-half, after Emily Scarratt kicked two penalties and Danielle Waterman scored a try.
Canada, who drew 13-13 with England in the Pool stage, fought their way back as Magali Harvey kicked three penalties to make it 11-9.
On the hour mark, England’s Scarratt kicked another penalty and then the same player went over for a try and kicked the conversion to make sure of the victory.
Croker played some part in every game of the tournament, coming off the bench in both the semi-final and final.
To reach the final, the Red Roses beat Ireland, slayers of three-time champions New Zealand, 40-7 in the semi-final.
In the pool stage of the competition, Croker started England’s opening game – a win over Samoa 65-3 – and then came off the bench in the 45-4 success against Spain.
She then started the final group against Canada which ended 13-13. Croker, who plays as a hooker for Richmond, said: “We always felt we could do well in the competition, but we had some tough games as Canada have improved so much in four years, and Ireland we have faced many times over the years.
“I was really pleased to see them beat New Zealand – they deserved it.
“We knew we had to keep the game tight early on against the Irish, and we did this.”
She added: “The final was just a great occasion.
“I still can’t believe it has happened and I am now a World Cup winner.
“I must thank all my family for their support as without them I would not be able to have achieved this.
“Also Swakeleys School has been very understanding with the amount of time I have needed to take off for training.”