Zoe Aldcroft is no stranger to Rugby World Cups. Although the second row is still only 26, she has already played at two editions of the showpiece tournament.
At Rugby World Cup 2017 in Ireland, Aldcroft was a squad member, starting two pool matches, while five years later she was an undisputed starter as the Red Roses again fell at the final hurdle against hosts New Zealand.
Aldcroft understandably relished both experiences, but the opportunity to play on the game’s biggest stage in front of home crowds is one that lights a fresh excitement within her.
The countdown to Rugby World Cup 2025 officially started on Tuesday with the announcement of host cities and venues, and the Gloucester-Hartpury star is determined to be a part of it.
“It would be so, so special,” Aldcroft told World Rugby. “I’ve had the chance to play in World Cups before away from home and that gives you an absolute buzz.
“But if I had the chance to do it in front of a home crowd, with momentum and the whole country behind it, it would be an amazing thing to do.”
RWC 2025 will be bigger than any women’s edition that has preceded it, with 16 teams competing across eight venues.
Sunderland will be one of the cities that hosts matches and for Scarborough native Aldcroft, playing in the North-East would add a further significance to the home Rugby World Cup.
“It’s always special to have the chance to play in the North-East,” said the World Rugby Women’s 15s Player of the Year in 2021.
“I’m from Scarborough so it’s really special as there isn’t loads of rugby up there; I’ve travelled down south to make sure I’m playing a good standard of rugby so to be able to broaden the horizon and for young girls to see rugby up there will be brilliant.
“I think it’s really important we’re getting rugby into the North-East, North-West and encouraging interest in the sport.”
England rebounded from their RWC 2021 heartache by winning a Women’s Six Nations Grand Slam, while Aldcroft celebrated domestic success with Gloucester-Hartpury.
Both were achieved in front of record crowds but the second-row is not about to rest up as she bids to help the Red Roses to further success on the road to RWC 2025.
“I’m super excited to start the countdown for the World Cup in 2025,” she said. “We have set our standards for what we want to achieve going forward and I think this has given us that excitement of what the next two years are going to hold.
“The game has been growing so much over the past few years. If we can really push that over the next two years, we’ll have the momentum going into 2025 and we can hopefully make a massive spectacle with record-breaking crowds and more media coverage.
“We just want to continue the upward trajectory to the Rugby World Cup and beyond.”
England will head to New Zealand in October to play in the inaugural edition of WXV 1 and Aldcroft believes World Rugby’s new annual global women’s 15s competition could prove key to the Red Roses’ hopes of winning a third Rugby World Cup crown in 2025.
“Like every World Cup, we are so determined and focused [to win RWC 2025] but there is obviously lots of rugby to be played before then,” Aldcroft added. “Every single game and camp, we’re trying to push and build towards the next World Cup.
“I think the new WXV tournament gives us a chance to play countries further afield so hopefully we can play the likes of New Zealand, Australia, Canada every single year and then that will elevate the standard of our rugby which will give us more of an insight going into the World Cup.”