From veterans like Natasha Hunt who was omitted alongside younger players she had come up through the ranks with, reacting to squad-naming day is always about striking the right balance between jubilation and empathy.
“We’ve been together as a group for nine weeks now so it was a surprise to see people not involved,” was Kildunne’s immediate response when asked by The Yorkshire Post what selection meant to her.
“I set myself up to think that I’ve put everything in I absolutely could have done over the past few weeks. I didn’t want to set myself up to be in a position of ‘what-if?’.
“It was made clear to us players from the start that it was going to be a difficult selection process, and we all understood that.
“That’s why training has been of a very high intensity. I’m sure it wasn’t straightforward.
“I’m obviously happy with the result, but my mindset was I wasn’t expecting anything so then nothing would come as a surprise.”
The announcement only came on Tuesday morning that the 23-year-old centre/full-back from Keighley would be on the plane to New Zealand as part of the 32-strong squad widely expected to win the tournament.
If she was struggling to appreciate the gravity of the situation at that very moment, it will soon start to sink in.
Among the thoughts she will have when she finally sits down and pats herself on the back is the journey she has been on. From starting out playing rugby league for Keigh ley Albions and union for Keighleyans as a six-year-old, then having to wait until she was 15 to play union for an all-girls team, to playing for West Park Leeds and Castleford before moving to Hartpury College in Gloucestershire to continue her rugby education before going full-time in the increasingly professional environments of Gloucester-Hartpury, Wasps and now Harlequins in the Allianz Premier 15s.
“It means everything to me, I don’t think it has quite sunk in. I’ve got a load of emotions going on at the moment. There’s a lot of pride,” says Kildunne, who won the first of her 25 England caps in 2017.
“I’ve put a lot of work into it, not just the last nine weeks. Even though I’m still only a young player there’s been a long time training, a lot of sacrifices.”
Merely making the squad is only half the battle. If earning selection was hard that’s because the English women’s team is the most professional in the game and the best in the world.
They head to New Zealand as tournament favourites, riding a remarkable 25-match unbeaten run.
“I never read too much into the record because I don’t want any level of complacency, but I know it’s something we’re all proud of,” says Kildunne.
“We know that we’ve won the 25 in a row but when it comes down to it it’s not something that’s at the forefront of your mind.
“You’re concentrating on the game in front of you and what we’ve got to do in our game model to ensure we’re successful.
“To come back from New Zealand with the gold medal and show everybody that it was all worth it, all the training – that’s the goal now.”
For all that union, particularly the women’s game, remains a southern sport with no Yorkshire teams in the Premier 15s, four Yorkshirewomen have been named in the squad by head coach Simon Middleton, himself a former league player from Pontefract.
“Simon has been a massive influence on who I am as a player,” says Kildunne. “He’s not always easily pleased but that has pushed me in the right direction.
“He’s taught me the fight that’s needed, the dog that is needed in every player to make them a success.”
Middleton was named coach of the year in 2021 in what was a Yorkshire double at the World Rugby awards as Zoe Aldcroft, the 25-year-old lock, was named women’s player of the year.
Aldcroft, from Scarborough, will be an integral player for England in New Zealand, while centre Tatyana Heard, 27, from Kirbymoorside has made the squad despite not representing her country for the last three years, and Morweena Talling, 19, is one of the surprise call-ups. Both Heard and Talling cite Malton and Norton RUFC as the club where it all began for them.
Sarah Hunter of North Shields will win her 136th cap when leading England into their first Pool C game against Fiji on Saturday August 8 in Auckland.
“Once upon a time the south was the majority,” smiles Kildunne. “But I’m hearing more and a more northern twangs. The southern girls are starting to get northern twangs. It’s humbling and it brings you back down to earth.”