Sarah Hunter has been awarded an honorary degree by Loughborough University ©Getty Images

England women's rugby captain Sarah Hunter has been awarded an honorary degree from Loughborough University.

Hunter became the most-capped England international in history during the recent Rugby World Cup as she made her 140th appearance in the final loss to New Zealand in Auckland.

The award recognises her "outstanding contribution to rugby and achievements at the very highest level of international competition.

It was presented at one of the University's winter degree ceremonies which was attended by World Athletics President and double Olympic champion Sebastian Coe, who is also chancellor of the institution.

"I'm unbelievably proud and honoured," Hunter told the Loughborough University website. 

"Never did I imagine I’d ever be given an honorary degree, let alone from Loughborough where sporting excellence is synonymous with the University.

"It's an incredible feeling and I'm very lucky to be able to share it with my family who have come to support me today.

"My mum, dad, brother, sister-in-law, and niece - who is only nine - are here and hopefully she might be inspired to come to Loughborough and follow in her auntie's footsteps!"

The number eight was named World Rugby women's player of the year in 2016 before leading England to a grand slam in the 2017 Six Nations and reaching both the 2017 and 2022 World Cup finals.

She graduated from Loughborough in 2007 with a degree in Sports Science and Mathematics and is currently a player/coach for the Loughborough Lightning women's rugby side.

"Sporting success is in the DNA of Loughborough and Sarah's achievements on the global stage have been simply incredible," Nick Jennings, vice-chancellor of Loughborough University, said. 

"She is a true pioneer of women's rugby and continues to inspire and influence those around her.

"Throughout her illustrious career she has shown strong leadership skills both on and off the field of play.

"Her ability to overcome adversity - through true grit and determination - makes for a wonderful athlete and leader.

"2022 has been a spectacular year of sport for those linked to the University, including great success at the Commonwealth Games and the Women's Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.

"We're tremendously proud to award Sarah with an honorary degree for her services to rugby union."