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Ex-Ireland star Spence joins Wales women's coaching staff

The former back-row has been appointed coach intern ahead of next year’s Rugby World Cup.

The 33-year-old is linking up with the Welsh team.
The 33-year-old is linking up with the Welsh team.
Image: Twitter/Welsh Rugby Union

FORMER IRELAND INTERNATIONAL Sophie Spence has joined the Wales women’s team as their Rugby World Cup 2021 coach intern.

The 33-year-old represented Ireland 40 times — playing at two World Cups and winning Six Nations titles in 2013 and 2015 before retiring from international duty after missing out on the 2018 Six Nations squad. 

Spence has plenty of experience coaching with Leinster, Dublin City University and the Sophie Spence Rugby Academy, which she launched in 2016. 

Last year, she got involved with Welsh Division 1 West men’s side Penclawdd as forwards coach.

The Rugby World Cup 2021 Coaching Internship Programme “creates quality deployment opportunities for aspiring female athletes” and World Rugby is targeting 40% of all coaches at RWC 2025 to be women.

Spence now links up with Wales’ coaching team of recently-appointed head coach Warren Abrahams and skills coach Rachel Taylor as they prepare to face reigning champions New Zealand, Australia and the winner of the final qualification tournament in Pool A next September.

“This is a great initiative by World Rugby, not only for rugby but for women in sport and I’m really looking forward to getting stuck in as we work towards the Rugby World Cup next year,” Spence said. “Wales Women have a really inspiring new coaching set-up and I’m pleased to be starting alongside them at the beginning of their journey.

“I’ve met the management team and I can see what path Warren has planned. I’ve been watching some Allianz 15s clips which is a brilliant standard of rugby but it will be good to meet the players and get started.

I’m keen to be as involved as possible. I’m looking forward to learning from Warren, and Rachel, who I’ve played with for the Barbarians. I’ll observe and I’ll also deliver whenever I’m needed as part of the team.

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“We have an exciting Rugby World Cup draw. It’s fantastic to have the opportunity to play New Zealand in their own back yard and with Australia also in the Pool, the focus will surely be all on those teams, which is great for us. We can work hard, focus on ourselves and show up as prepared as possible.”

sophie-spence-celebrates-at-the-final-whistle Sophie Spence during her playing days with Ireland. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

She added: “After coaching at University level in Dublin and with Leinster Rugby, I was always keen to keep progressing as a coach.

“I contacted the Welsh Rugby Union when I moved over to Wales to see what opportunities were out there. I knew what path I wanted to take and looked for a senior men’s team as a new challenge. I’ve really enjoyed coaching at Penclawdd. We are on an upward spiral and having moved up from Division 2, we were sitting around sixth place when the season was suspended.

“Then the WRU’s Player to Coach programme came up which is aimed at elite level players in Wales. We are on our fourth session and it’s been really positive sharing experiences and learnings from coaching and, as far as the professional players are concerned, playing at the highest possible level.

“And now the World Rugby internship is a huge opportunity for me and the rest of the interns. I’m sure we will learn so much from each other and the experience.”

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