AN England rugby star has been awarded an honorary doctorate from Bournemouth University.

England and Saracens Rugby Union player Poppy Cleall was recognised of her achievements in international and domestic rugby, and her work to promote gender equality in sport.

Poppy grew up in Dorset and played for Ellingham & Ringwood and Wimborne before progressing to Bristol Ladies.

In 2017 she was part of the first women’s rugby squad to gain professional status ahead of the World Cup.

Poppy is an active campaigner for gender diversity in sport and launched the Women’s Rugby Agency to co-ordinate coaching sessions and player appearances for schools and charities.

On how it felt to receive the award, Poppy said: "It was pretty surreal - I didn’t think I would be getting a letter like that. I’m honoured to have had my career, and now to be here in Bournemouth, where I started playing rugby just down the road, coming back here full circle in the journey is an amazing honour."

Professor John Vinney, vice-chancellor of Bournemouth University, said: "One of our aims as an institution is to challenge marginalisation and under representation and Poppy is a fantastic ambassador for this.

"We are proud of the sporting opportunities and facilities we offer to our students, staff and the wider community, including hosting Bournemouth Rugby Club at our Chapel Gate site. For all these reasons, I am sure Poppy will feel very much at home in our BU community."