Ana María Aigneren has already had a taste of a Women’s Rugby World Cup and the Spain captain is eager to end her career with another by leading her team safely through the qualification process to take their place at France 2014.
Aigneren was part of the Spanish team that finished ninth at the 2006 tournament in Canada and admits it would be “a dream come true” if they can make the most of home advantage and finish in the top two of the qualifier in Madrid from 20-27 April.
“It is a dream come true for most of us (if we can qualify),” Aigneren told Total Rugby Radio this week. “I played in the 2006 World Cup as a young girl and I would love to end my career as a rugby player by playing in another. That would be great.
“For the girls who haven’t had that experience it is something that you just can’t compare. It is the ultimate in your career to play in a world championship. We are all very hopeful and we know we have to do our best to gain our goal and have our dream come true.”
With Italy, Scotland, Sweden, the Netherlands and Samoa also dreaming of a place at WRWC 2014 via this qualifier, Aigneren knows it will not be easy to realise her dream but hopes home advantage can give them an edge.
“I think it is a lot of help being at home. Whenever you play at home and you have your people cheering you, you get the strength that you need for the last 20 minutes or jut to tackle better and run better and faster.”
Spain missed out on qualification for England 2010 after surprise package Sweden beat both them and Italy to qualify, but Aigneren believes her side will benefit from matches against Italy, a Wales XV, Ireland XV and the Nomads in the last five months.
Three wins the target
“We have been improving every time we get together,” explained the number 8. “Luckily we have had three Test matches during the year which is something new because in the years before that we haven’t had any international matches.”
The qualifier format means that Spain will play the three sides in the other pool to them in Sweden, the Netherlands and Italy and Aigneren is not underestimating the challenge that lies ahead of them.
“We know that it is going to be difficult to qualify but we have got a good team. We have got very fast girls, we can attack in many places on the pitch and we have played against the three teams before and we have beaten them before.
“We lost against Italy in December and that will be our main goal to win against them. They have improved a lot since they got into the Six Nations, that is one thing we miss a lot because it gives you a lot of experience.
“We lost against Sweden in the qualifiers four years ago. They are very big girls, they are very strong with the ball and hard to tackle, they run straight and hard. As a team we have been improving a lot thanks to the games we have played this year and I think that will make the difference.
“We have won all the games against the Netherlands. That doesn’t mean that we will again but for our minds it is good. We know they have been improving a lot in Sevens but they have not worked a lot in Fifteens rugby so maybe the team is not too tight together.
“We have to just work on our game and our skills and hopefully win with that. We are hoping to win all three games so we secure qualification, which is important because then the media will talk a lot more about women’s rugby and the sport will be known more in the whole country.”
The WRWC 2014 qualifier matches in Madrid will be streamed on 20, 23 and 27 April here.