Career highs and lows, the future of women’s rugby and retirement

Sophie Spence

Sophie is a titan of Irish rugby, who recently hung up her boots in 2017. Since making her debut for Ireland back in 2012, Sophie’s explosive carries, tireless tackling and strong presence in the second row helped drive Ireland towards an unprecedented era of success which culminated in a historic Grand Slam in 2013, a World Cup semi-final in 2014, a second Six Nations title in 2015 and beating the All Blacks in 2014. Sophie was also nominated for World Rugby Player of the Year in 2015.

Developing the Sport of rugby for young girls has always been a passion for Sophie. This passion leads her to become a socialpreneur, setting up Spence Rugby Academy camps across the country to give young girls the opportunity to learn and develop their skills in the sport whilst developing transferable life skills such as team work and leadership.

In this episode Sophie reflects on her early days in Newcastle, the highs and lows of her rugby career, her thoughts on retirement and the next phase of her career between Dublin and Gowerton, Wales.


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1:00 Introducing Sophie Spence and her major athletic accomplishments

1:45 Sophie’s work in television

2:24 The Irish women’s rugby team’s current standing

4:40 The current state of the Irish squad

5:40 The end of a historic era in women’s rugby

7:00 Building a culture

8:15 Sophie’s entry into rugby

9:40 Being discovered by Philip Doyle (Goose)

12:30 Sophie’s first steps in the rugby world

14:20 Early influences and mentors

14:52 Sophie’s 2012 debut against Wales

17:05 Playing for England or Ireland

18:25 Success of 2013

19:35 1st Grand Slam win

21:05 The difference between 15s and 7s

22:35 Lead-up to the 2014 World Cup

25:10 Ireland win against New Zealand

27:35 Ali Miller’s career post-injury

28:12 Losing to England

29:40 Rugby in the media

30:05 Changes in 2014-2015

33:35 Personal nominations and wins

36:05 Ireland hosting the World Cup

36:55 Sophie’s 2016 concussion

40:15 Concussions in rugby

42:44 Challenges in 2016-2017

44:20 Psychological support

45:25 2017 World Cup loss

48:45 Retirement in 2017

51:20 Adapting to post-athletic life

52:55 Skills retained from being an elite athlete

54:15 Advice to young female athletes

54:45 The legacy of Irish women’s rugby

59:15 7s vs 15s

1:00:35 Current state of the 15s

1:02:10 Initiatives around women’s rugby and women’s sports

1:04:02 Changes to be made in rugby

1:06:02 Future coaching or playing

1:06:33 Opening a coffee shop in Wales