Burford (centre) in action against Ealing Trailfinders

Harlequins hero Rachael Burford bids farewell to rugby career

Rachael Burford struggled to hold back the tears as she bid farewell to a legendary career in rugby following Harlequins’ final game of the Allianz Premiership Women’s Rugby season.

Having spent a remarkable 20 years in the sport, Burford has continually been at the heart of the development of the women’s game, blazing a trail and departs the pitch as an inspiration to many.

Burford enjoyed vast success for both club and country, with her crowning achievement coming as part of the England squad that won the Women’s Rugby World Cup in 2014.

Now, almost a decade on from that night in Paris, Burford was taken aback by emotion as she made her way off the pitch for the final time, serenaded by the applause of the appreciative Stoop faithful.

“Just to see the crowd standing on their feet, seeing my family, seeing former players, that means the world to me,” she said. “It was a really special moment and I’ll definitely look back on that.

“That’s what moved me to tears and I was trying to hold it back. It’s the first time that I’ve shed a tear this week.”

As the regular season comes to a close, all eyes now look to ahead to the Allianz Premiership Women’s Rugby final, where one of Gloucester-Hartpury, Exeter Chiefs, Saracens or Bristol Bears will be crowned champions.

It is a game Burford knows all about, having played in three finals with Harlequins during her seven years in West London.

Hell-bent to win championship gold with Quins, her first two seasons at the Stoop ended in heartbreak, being pipped to the title on both occasions by city rivals Saracens.

But as they returned for a third time in 2021 – once again against the same foe – Harlequins finally were able to get the job done, avenging heartbreak on the big stage.

“It was in that final where no matter what was thrown at us, we were not going to lose,” she reflected.

“To have that feeling and complete trust in the team around us, there was a lot of excitement and belief in each other that we knew that we had the ability to beat Saracens on that day.

“Post winning, it just was relief but really special for that team, because a lot of us had gone through the continuous heartbreak. Then to do it collectively was really special.”

While Burford may be calling time on the field, she has no intentions of putting her love for rugby, nor the desire to see the sport grow, on the backburner.

Emphasising the impact the game can have on young people, she has insisted that she will continue to try and give back to the sport that has given her so much.

“I massively want to thank this game because it’s given me so much more than I’ve given it to back to it,” she added.

“I just want to be able to continue growing our sport because I look back on all the opportunities it gave me, all the experiences, the good times, the challenges and the lessons learned – it’s ultimately shaped who I am today.

“I think the more that we can inspire young people to pick up a rugby ball, whatever level it is, it will give them something back as well. That’s really important to me.”

Tickets from £10 are now on sale for the Allianz Premiership Women’s Rugby Final 2024 at Sandy Park on 22 June, kick off 3pm. All details from

Featured Image Credit: Ryan Redman / PRiME Media Images

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