Hooker Aroa Gonzalez will extend her national caps record when she leads Spain at the Women’s Rugby World Cup in Ireland next month. The Spanish side will compete in Pool B with defending champions England, the USA and Italy.
Captain of ‘las Leonas’, Aroa Gonzalez made her debut as a 17-year-old against Ireland during the 1997 FIRA European Championship. Having come out of retirement three years ago and recently shaken off a leg injury, she now has 68 caps to her name – a Spanish record – and continues to ‘set the benchmark for the team on and off the pitch’ according to head coach Jose Antonio Barrio.
It will be Gonzalez’s fourth World Cup, with fellow forwards Rocio García, who has amassed 59 caps in the front row, vice-captain Isabel Rico, Elena Redondo, Lourdes Alameda, Maria Ribera, Angela del Pan, Diana Gasso and Paula Medin also returning from the squad that finished ninth at the 2014 tournament in France.
Up-and-coming prop Jeanina Vinueza, who plays her club rugby with Saracens in England, is the youngest member of the forwards contingent at 23, while there are a number of youngsters in the backs – including impressive 19-year-old scrum half Anne Fernandez de Corres, out-half Carlota Meliz (24), uncapped winger Barbara Garcia (25) and fellow back-three specialists Iera Echebarria (24), Amaia Erbina and Uri Barrutieta (both 20).
Out-half/centre Maria Ahis is the second new cap called up and one of 13 Spanish players set for their first taste of World Cup action. Sevens play-maker Patricia García, Vanesa Rial, Marina Bravo and Barbara Pla, who have 133 Test caps between them, will bring plenty of experience to the back-line.
Veteran full-back Pla (pictured below) is set to win her 50th cap during the tournament’s pool stages in Dublin. Rial, Erbina, Patricia Garcia and Bravo all scored tries when Spain qualified for the World Cup last November thanks to a 25-15 aggregate win over Scotland.
Elisabet Martínez, who was a try scorer in Spain’s 15-7 WRWC warm-up win over England ‘B’ in London over the weekend, has failed to make the final selection. Spain’s Sevens captain at last year’s Olympics, she has been battling injury and is the only member of their Rio squad not included for Ireland 2017.
Barrio, who is taking his players to Bandon in Cork this week for a training camp with the Ireland squad, commented: “We want to thank all of those who have been part of this dream. There are many players who will not be able to travel to Ireland – it has been very difficult to pick the final squad – but they will all be with us fighting at the World Cup.
“We have chosen 16 forwards who are strong and ready for the physical challenge ahead. In the backs, we have looked for the most versatile players and those who we believe are in the best form heading into the tournament.”
WRWC 2017 Fixtures:
Pool B –
England v Spain, UCD Bowl, 2pm, Wednesday, August 9
USA v Spain, UCD Bowl, 2.45pm, Sunday, August 13
Italy v Spain, UCD Bowl, 2.45pm, Thursday, August 17
For more on the 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup, visit the tournament website – www.rwcwomens.com. Buy your match tickets for #WRWC2017 now on www.ticketmaster.co.uk/wrwc2017 and www.ticketmaster.ie/wrwc2017.
SPAIN WRWC 2017 Squad – Backs (12): Patricia García (FER), Anne Fernandez de Corres (CR Cisneros), Carlota Méliz (XV Sanse Scrum), María Ahís (Olimpico de Pozuelo) *, Amaia Erbina (CR Cisneros), Barbara García (Olimpico de Pozuelo) *, Barbara Pla (Getxo RT), María Casado (INEF Barcelona), Uri Barrutieta (Getxo RT), Iera Echebarría (Olimpico de Pozuelo), Vanesa Rial (CRAT Universidade da Coruna), Marina Bravo (CR Cisneros).
Forwards (16): Aroa Gonzalez (INEF Barcelona) (capt), Isabel Rico (Olimpico de Pozuelo), Jeanina Vinueza (Saracens RFC), Isabel Macías (Olimpico de Pozuelo), Laura Delgado (CRAT Universidade da Coruna), Saioa Jaurena (Getxo RT), Rocío García (Lalin RC), Monica Castelo (CRAT Universidade da Coruna), Berta Garcia (CRAT Universidade da Coruna), Elena Redondo (Gent RFC), María Ribera (XV Sanse Scrum), Lourdes Alameda (XV Sanse Scrum), Diana Gassó (Gotics RC), Paula Medín (CRAT Universidade da Coruna), Ángela del Pan (INEF Barcelona), Carmen Pérez (Getxo RT).
* Denotes uncapped player