Having featured in Spain (2002), Canada (2006) and England (2010), the London-based physio was named yesterday in coach Philip Doyle’s 26-player squad.
“Oh I don’t know if I’ll make history,” she laughs.
“There’s a few players around the world who I think have played in four World Cups, including Brian O’Driscoll, and I think if Paul O’Connell stays on, it’ll be his fourth. But maybe it’s just a sign I’ve been around too long!” With 83 caps under her belt, Cantwell has not officially declared that retirement is on the cards, despite suggestions during the Six Nations campaign. Instead, her focus is entirely on preparations for the World Cup in Paris next month.
At 32, Cantwell is the director of one of nine physio clinics in London, and having won the English Championship with Richmond RFC, she’s commuted to weekend training sessions for the last month at Johnstown House in Enfield, County Meath, for team preparations.
A lot has changed since Doyle’s side bowed out at the 2010 World Cup in Surrey to Australia on points difference, narrowly missing out on a semi-final spot.
“At the time we felt we were preparing the very best we could, but since then a lot of things have changed and the mindset is a lot more professional. Maybe we’ve come of age and mentally we’re just more ready, but I think after winning the Six Nations the belief in the team was so solidified too and that speaks volumes,” said the Swords native.
With no psychologists put to use, Cantwell is focusing all her energies on preparing the younger girls in the squad for their games against USA (August 1), world champions New Zealand (August 5) and Kazakhstan (August 9).
“I just focus on them really and make sure they know how great they are and that they’re confidence is high. They have such potential and they have to realise it. They’re lucky now to have the right structures in place and the support network around them. Back in the day we weren’t in a position to have that because naturally the pool of coaches to invest in us weren’t there, but now we have strength and conditioning advice and nutrition and everything we need to help us do the best we can.
“Winning the Grand Slam taught us to believe in ourselves and in our capabilities,” she reflected. “I think we can do it and that’s what’s still driving me, and I believe in the girls’ potential to achieve. Ultimately, I want to see them do it.”
Meanwhile, TG4 have announced they will broadcast Ireland’s pool games live, as well as the semi-finals and final.
World Cup squad: Forwards (13): G Bourke (UL Bohemians/Munster), F Coghlan (UL Bohemians/Leinster), K Ann Craddock (Saracens/Exiles), A Egan (Old Belvedere/ Leinster), O Fitzsimons (St Mary’s College/ Leinster), S Fleming (Tralee/Munster), L Guest (Highfield/Munster), F Hayes (UL Bohemians/Munster), S Lynch (Old Belvedere/ Leinster), C Molloy (Bristol/Connacht), H O’Brien (Highfield RFC/Munster), M Louise Reilly (Old Belvedere/Leinster), S Spence (Old Belvedere/ Leinster).
Backs (13): A Baxter (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster), N Briggs (UL Bohemians/Munster), L Cantwell (Richmond RFC/Exile), H Casey (Saracens/Exiles), G Davitt (Cooke/Ulster), P Fitzpatrick (St Mary’s College/Leinster), N Kavanagh (UL Bohemians/Munster), A Miller (Portlaoise/ Connacht), L Muldoon (Bristol/Exile), J Murphy (Old Belvedere/Leinster), T Rosser (Blackrock/ Leinster), N Stapleton (Old Belvedere/Leinster), J Shiels (Richmond RFC/Exile.