Brandon’s Amanda Thornborough is preparing to take on the world.
The 24-year-old product of the Vincent Massey Vikings and Brandon Barbarians rugby programs flew overseas on Monday with Canada’s senior women’s 15s rugby team to begin gearing up for the prestigious IRB Women’s World Cup, slated for Aug. 1-17 in Paris.
For Thornborough, who now lives and trains full-time in Victoria, it promises to be the biggest competition of her young international career.
"Absolutely, I think this is going to be my career highlight," Thornborough said prior to leaving for Europe.
"It’s what you aspire to in women’s rugby is to play in a World Cup and it’s the highest you can go right now. So it’s phenomenal that I am going to be a part of it ... It’s a huge honour and I’ve seen women before me play in it and I’ve just aspired to be just like them, so it’s kind of an out of body experience to think that I am one of them now."
One of the rising young stars in the national team program, Thornborough has earned international caps for Canada in both sevens and 15s rugby. But competing in a World Cup — held only ever four years — will be a whole new experience.
"It’s definitely been a dream and it started to come into reality when I made the Nations Cup team last summer," said Thornborough, a speedy 5-foot-5 centre. "I wasn’t thinking realistically for the World Cup until then.
"There are a lot of extremely competitive centres that play my position that have been to several World Cups before me and I didn’t think it was in my sights. But since the Nations Cup in Colorado last summer, it has become more real ... and here it is now."
The Canadian team is holding a 10-day training camp overseas prior to beginning the World Cup, a critical block of time for a squad that draws players from across the country and doesn’t train full-time together year-round.
"We are going over to kind of get acclimatized and get the jet lag out before we begin," Thornborough said. "It’s starting to get a little exciting, but we have quite a while before our first game kicks off, so it’s going to be good to get the jitters out of the team and really come together ...
"We have been training really, really hard and I am injury free, knock on wood, and I am the strongest and fastest that I have ever been, so I am ready to go."
Thornborough, who sealed her spot on the national team by representing Canada in an overseas exhibition tour versus New Zealand and Australia last month, is one of three players filling two positions, so expects to see plenty of action in the World Cup whether she is starting or coming off the bench.
"Our head coach ... really likes to mix it up and play to our players’ strengths," she said. "Playing centre are me and two others and we all have different strengths, so it will depend on what team we play, the starting lineup might change ... (but) there will definitely be minutes to play."
While her focus is firmly on the 15s game for now, the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro — where sevens rugby will be played — may draw her back to the other version of the game at some point.
"The game is actually quite a bit different and it was hard for me to transition back to 15s, just the style is different, running lines and passing distance and a lot more minutes played in the 15s game," said Thornborough, who is also considering entering the police academy in Victoria this fall. "But it’s my main focus right now with this prestigious tournament, so I really narrowed my focus in that regard. But in 2016, you never know, I just have to try to stay in the loop and hopefully I can get on that (team) as well."