Wednesday 25 April 2018

Spence expects 'physical' French test

Ireland's Sophie Spence. Photo: Brendan Moran / Sportsfile
Ireland's Sophie Spence. Photo: Brendan Moran / Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

As seasons go, last year was a particularly good one for Sophie Spence who after playing a central role in Ireland's Six Nations success was nominated for World Rugby Player of the Year.

Trying to build on that is a challenge in itself but with so many fresh faces in the Ireland squad and the fact that they have never won in France, tomorrow's encounter in Perpignan is all the more challenging.

Like Ireland, France began their campaign with a comfortable home win (39-0 against Italy) last weekend but Tom Tierney's side won't need reminding that France were the only side to beat them on their way to the title last season. "Every time we play France we know what it is going to be like, we know that they are going to be so strong, a physical pack with a backline that is skilful and has pace. It's always going to be a huge challenge," Spence said.

"Last week it was so important to get that first win of the competition. It's come down to the preparation that we have had.

"We have had camps since August; we have never had that before. We walked into the competition with nine camps under our belts instead of four. It has been such a confidence boost."

The powerful second-row has established herself as one of the world's best players but Spence admits that she still has plenty of improvements to make in her game.

"Everyone wants to work on different things in their game. I have been in the squad for five seasons so it's time to take a bit of a leadership role.

"I don't want that to affect my game in any way because there are always key areas that players have to work on in terms of their game; look at physicality, my work in defence and what new things that I can offer to the squad, not just as an individual but what will complement the other girls as well."

Ireland's pack dominated Wales and the only change sees hooker Cliodhna Moloney coming in for Zoe Grattage as they face a much tougher test in France.

"You need a strong pack to allow the backs to feel confident in themselves," Spence maintained.

"It is important that the pack sets the standard so that the backs can feel free to do what they do best.

"We have to work so much on our skill set, our game-plan and our patterns and things.

"I think it has to be about belief in the squad and confidence; they are key now.

"You can see everyone has that trust in one another. As the tournament goes on we will build that even further."

Irish Independent

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