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Ireland at the 2019 Rugby World Cup

Try Scorer Spence Credits Ireland’s Resilience After Winning Start

Try Scorer Spence Credits Ireland’s Resilience After Winning Start

Following Ireland’s 19-17 victory over Australia in Pool C of the Women’s Rugby World Cup, try-scoring replacement Sophie Spence spoke about the ‘extremely physical’ challenge laid down by an improving Wallaroos side.

The fired-up Australians made life very difficult for the hosts on the opening night at the UCD Bowl, and with tries either side of half-time from Mahalia Murphy and captain Shannon Parry, they nudged their way into a 10-7 lead.

Paul Verrell’s side also caused problems for Ireland early on in this end-to-end contest, but for 2015 World Rugby Women’s Player of the Year nominee Sophie Spence, it was important that Ireland remained calm and composed under pressure.

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“Extremely physical. We knew Australia were going to be a physical team from 1 to 15. They brought it to us. I think we showed extreme resilience throughout the game, to hold them out for that last two points. We knew they were going to be physical, we prepared for that,” said Spence as she reflected on the WRWC 2017 opener.

“We were talking about the first 20 minutes of the game, and that’s going to be the turning point, I suppose, to it. We were on the back foot for a bit, but I think it’s about the fact that we can remain calm and composed and look at what options are ahead of us.”

This was a match of major significance for Tom Tierney’s charges, as they were playing a World Cup match on home soil for the very first time. Spence acknowledged that the World Cup has a completely different meaning in relation to a competition like the Six Nations, but with the focus being on the job at hand, she is aware of the need to block out the noise of the crowd regardless of the occasion.

“Everyone wants to play in a World Cup, and it’s a different kind of tournament to having a Six Nations every year, which is a fantastic tournament in itself. Everyone has worked extremely hard for this, and been waiting for three years since the last World Cup. We knew it was going to be difficult, but I suppose that’s down to the preparations that we’ve had to prepare us for these moments.

“I think in terms of myself as an individual, it’s fantastic to have a crowd, but as soon as I step over the white line, the focus is on the game, and you’ve got to block out those sounds, because you’ve got a job to do.”

Spence started four of Ireland’s five games at the 2014 World Cup in France, but was named amongst the replacements for this game. Sprung from the bench for the closing half-an-hour, she capped an impressive individual display with the vital final try for Ireland. Modest as ever, she was quick to praise the role that Alison Miller played in the 70th minute score.

“I suppose they’re the turning points of the game. Fantastic support from Ali Miller. The support that we’ve got as a team (is excellent), and the forwards worked really hard in close situations to really bust over there.”

While it was widely acknowledged that Ireland’s overall performance was far from perfect, they can still look forward to Sunday’s second round clash with Japan in a positive frame of mind, and Spence feels this is an ideal scenario for the squad.

“We showed brilliant resilience there, and the fact that it wasn’t a clear win, you’d probably be a bit more annoyed with yourself (if it was), because what do we fix? Whereas we’ve got lots of things to work on. What are we going to bring now for Japan, and work on that,” added the 30-year-old, who now has 36 caps to her name.

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For more on the 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup, visit the tournament website – www.rwcwomens.com. Buy your match tickets for the #WRWC2017 finals stages now on www.ticketmaster.co.uk/wrwc2017 and www.ticketmaster.ie/wrwc2017.