Trying time for rugby showdown friends

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A FRIENDSHIP between two leading South Tyneside sportswomen was on hold for 80 minutes today as they represented their respective countries in a St Patrick’s Day rugby showdown.

Sophie Spence, 25, is hoping for the luck of the Irish when her team take on Katy McLean’s England in the Rugby Union Six Nations tournament at Esher in London.

Both women are from South Shields and play for the Mowden Sharks in Darlington.

Katy is England captain and fly half.

They are close friends, but that was being put aside at 2pm and replaced by a fierce sporting rivalry.

An England win would clinch the Grand Slam, while victory for the Irish will see them walk off with the Triple Crown.

Proud mum Myrtle Spence, 58, was planning to watch the match on a computer at her home in Olive Street, South Shields – the tie is being screened live on the internet.

She said: “Sophie and Katy are good pals and play for the same club, but they will both want to win the game.

“I just think it’s great that two girls from South Shields are involved and are raising the profile of the town. Unlike their male counterparts, the women are not professional in that they don’t get paid – they give their time and put in the commitment just for the love of the game.”

She added: “Sophie is relatively new to rugby. She’s only been playing for three years and played netball when she was at university.

“He big ambition is to play in the World Cup in France in two years time.”

Sophie is a former pupil at the town’s Ashley Road Primary School and Brinkburn Comprehensive.

She went to Teesside University and now works as a sports lecturer at Hartlepool Sixth Form College. Mrs Spence, who moved to South Shields from Belfast 32 years ago, is planning a big celebration if her daughter, who plays in the second row, triumphs today.

She said: “I’m having a St Patrick’ Day buffet at home, and if we win, we’ll head down into town to celebrate.”