Spence yesterday retired from international rugby after a five-year career during a golden age for the sport in Ireland.
Spence was an integral member of the sides which won two Six Nations Championships and defeated the mighty New Zealand in the 2014 Rugby World Cup. A year later she was a nominee for the World Rugby player of the year, RTÉ sportsperson of the year and was the Guinness Rugby writer’s player of the year.
Spence commented: “It is with regret that I am announcing my retirement. I had hoped to finish my career after playing in one last Six Nations, but it is not to be. I have been incredibly proud to pull on the Irish jersey and to play for Ireland alongside such talented teammates.”
She added: “The women’s game is at a critical junction. I hope to see it driven forward and for it to receive an equal level of respect and treatment of players as the men’s game. We need development of the game at underage and U20 level. Through the Rugby Academy that I run across the country, I see that the appetite is there, we just need to give young girls the opportunity to learn and develop their skills in the sport.”
Spence was not named in yesterday’s squad for the Six Nations announced by coach Adam Griggs.
Griggs has included nine players from the national sevens programmed in his 38 strong selection for the tournament.
Griggs has also called up nine uncapped players for the campaign which beings away to France on Saturday, February 3. Notably though players involved in the Sydney 7s tournament in late January will not be available for the tournament opener in Stade Ernst-Wallon, Toulouse Griggs said: “Over the course of the interprovincial fixtures I’ve had the opportunity to see the players in competitive and challenging games, and it was very valuable for me to see them in action.
“There is good-experience in the squad, with most of the players selected competing at this level for a number of seasons. In addition to those experienced players, there are also nine uncapped players named, and they’ve all earned their inclusion by performing well in the Interpro games and for the Irish Sevens, and I’ve no doubt there will be good competition for places throughout the campaign.
“I’m excited to be working with these players and I’m looking forward to getting the campaign underway in what is set to be a tough opening game in the south of France.” Ireland Women’s Six Nations Squad.
E Anthony (Highfield / Munster); A Baxter (Cooke/Ulster); A Caplice (UL Bohemian / Munster); C Cooney (Railway Union / Leinster); L Feely (Galwegians / Connacht)*; P Fitzpatrick (St. Mary’s College / Leinster); O Fitzsimons (St. Mary’s College / Leinster); N Fryday (Tullamore / Connacht); C Griffin (UL Bohemian / Munster); L Lyons (Highfield / Munster); A McDermott (Railway Union / Leinster)*; E McMahon ((Galwegians / Connacht)*; C Molloy (Bristol); C Moloney (Railway Union / Leinster); C O’Connor (Galwegians / Connacht); C Pearse (UL Bohemian / Munster); L Peat (Railway Union / Leinster); F Reidy (UL Bohemian / Munster).
N Briggs (UL Bohemians / Munster); N Caughey (Railway Union / Ulster); M Claffey (Blackrock College / Leinster)*; M Coyne (Galwegians / Connacht); N Cronin (UL Bohemian / Munster); J Deacon (Blackrock College / Leinster); K Fitzhenry (Blackrock College / Leinster); K Flood (Railway Union / Leinster); L Galvin (UL Bohemian / Munster); M Healy (Galwegians / Connacht); K Heffernan (Railway Union / Leinster)*; E Higgins (Railway Union / Leinster)*; A Hughes (Railway Union / Leinster); C McLaughlin (Cooke / Ulster); A Miller (Old Belvedere / Connacht); S Naoupu (Old Belvedere / Leinster); D Nic A Bhaird (UL Bohemian / Munster)*; H Tyrrell (Old Belvedere / Leinster); S Vaughan (Railway Union / Leinster)*; M Williams (Old Belvedere / Leinster)*.
*denotes uncapped player.
Ireland Women’s Six Nations Fixtures 2018
France v Ireland , Stade Ernst Wallon, Toulouse, 8pm;
Ireland v Italy, Donnybrook Stadium, 1pm;
Ireland v Wales, Donnybrook Stadium, 3pm;
Ireland v Scotland, Donnybrook Stadium, 1pm;
England v Ireland, Ricoh Arena, Coventry, 5.30pm.