Spence lands nomination for World Player of the Year
Ireland second-row Sophie Spence's fine form during the Six Nations has earned her a nomination for World Rugby Player of the Year.
The English-born lock was her side's standout performer during a memorable tournament, helping Tom Tierney's team to a second title in three years with a series of barnstorming displays.
She faces competition from New Zealand's Kendra Cocksedge and France's Gaëlle Mignot for the coveted prize with the winner being announced at the World Rugby awards on November 1 in London.
Former Ireland captain Fiona Coghlan is among the judges for the award, which has never been won by an Irish player.
Spence was last week named Guinness Rugby Writers of Ireland Women's Player of the Year in recognition of her magnificent season.
She was a key player for Tierney's team as they recovered from defeat to France to finish strongly and claim the title against Scotland, with Spence scoring in a 73-3 win.
Meanwhile, fears are growing that Connacht's new signing Api Pewharangi could be set for a long spell on the sidelines after injuring his knee in Friday's pre-season defeat to Castres.
An Ireland international in rugby league, the New Zealander was recruited by Pat Lam over the summer in the hope that he could bolster the Westerners' options in the centre as the province look set to lose Robbie Henshaw to the Ireland squad for large portions of the season.
However, he limped out of the 19-5 defeat to the Top 14 side and it is understood he may have damaged his cruciate ligament which could rule him out for the season.
Connacht face Munster at Thomond Park in their third pre-season match on Friday night, having conceded home advantage so that the clash could be part of the Limerick Sevens tournament.
So far, they have lost to both Grenoble and Castres.