A RUGBY player from South Tyneside is flying the flag for her country in one of the sport’s biggest tournaments.
Sophie Spence is representing Ireland in the Rugby Union women’s Six Nations competition, which kicked off on February 2.
The 25-year-old, from South Shields, scored the first try in the country’s opening match of the Six Nations – a 13-12 win against France.
The lock forward, a former Brinkburn School pupil, who is eligible to play for the side as her mum is from Northern Ireland, is hoping to be in the starting line-up against Scotland today.
It is a remarkable rise for Sophie, who only took up the sport while at Teesside University.
She said: “I hadn’t played rugby before I went to university, but it just seemed to come naturally and I progressed very quickly.
“I started out playing for the university team and was asked to play at an Irish exiles training camp. From there, I was chosen for the national team.
“Representing my country is the best feeling in the world, and I was so proud to score the first try against Wales.
“Rugby is such an intense, physical sport; it’s something I enjoy so much.”
Sophie, who earned her first cap for Ireland in last year’s Six Nations, works as a sports tutor at Hartlepool Sixth Form College.
She said: “Being part of the national team is amazing. It’s a great squad to be a part of and after our last two positive results this year, it is going exceptionally well.