Amanda Thornborough will wait until after the IRB Women’s Rugby World Cup is over to think about what it means to her to play at the pinnacle of the sport in the 15s game.
Thornborough is part of the Canadian team that will take on the hosts from France in a semifinal match today (TSN, 1:15 p.m.) and although she won’t play, the Brandon native said the scope of the event has been amazing.
"I try not to think about because it stresses me out a little bit, but it’s just great to think that I’m at the most prestigious tournament that there is in women’s rugby," she said. "With the Olympics approaching (rugby sevens will debut as a medal sport in the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro) this is really it until then, but I just try and think that it’s like any other game."
The Canadians have posted two wins and a tie so far at the World Cup, with Thornborough playing in Canada’s second match, a 42-7 victory over Samoa. Thornborough set up a Canadian try in that match and the 24-year-old centre said it was a thrill to see some game action.
"It was pretty amazing. I was thrilled to come on the field and as a younger player I’m happy to get any minutes that I get," said Thornborough, who lives and trains in Victoria. "There’s two amazing centres I really look up to that have been on the starting lineup, so I’m just learning lots from them. And playing against Samoa was a great physical game, so I was up for the challenge."
Since she hasn’t been playing much, Thornborough has focused on practising hard to help her teammates prepare and to continue her own improvement while she waits for her next opportunity.
While she has played in front of as many as 75,000 fans for the Hong Kong Sevens tournament, which features men’s and women’s teams, the crowds the World Cup is drawing in France are beyond anything Thornborough has seen for the women’s game before. And the intensity will only grow for today’s match in Paris, where the Canadians will try to spoil the party.
"It’s been pretty great," she said. "The two-week pre-camp leading up to it really brought us together and being here at the tournament and seeing all the spectators, it’s just really a phenomenon. There’s supposed to be record-breaking spectators at our semifinal, I think, 40,000 or something; it’s incredible."