W6N 2022: France Team Preview

By: Jackie Finlan, The Rugby Breakdown

The women’s rugby Six Nations championship begins this weekend, and France is looking to extend the country’s current jubilation into the spring. Last weekend, Les Bleus won the men’s Grand Slam, and now it’s time for the French women to start their own title-winning campaign in 2022.

France women’s rugby hasn’t won a Six Nations trophy since 2018, but last year reiterated that Les Bleus are never far from hoisting a trophy. During the truncated 2021 tournament - which saw the six teams play a total of three games apiece - France opened with a 53-0 win against Wales. Caroline Boujard scored three tries and then followed with another two against Ireland in a 56-15 victory. Those stats no doubt contributed to Boujard’s nomination for 2021 World Rugby Women’s 15s Player of the Year.

Le Crunch followed. On April 24, England and France met for the Women’s Six Nations title, and the Red Roses closed out a 10-6 contest for the win. While that loss certainly stung, France women’s rugby team head coach Hayroud lauded the overall opportunity that came with the shifted tournament schedule and closed-camp conditions. Hayroud praised France’s ever-strengthening scrum and defense, and was eager to gauge some adjustments in Le Crunch Part Deux.

On April 31, England traveled to Lille for a regularly scheduled test, and France established the first lead of the game. The teams traded scores, but an extra conversion put England up 14-12 into the break. The squads exchanged penalties in the second half, and then France held the momentum as the fourth quarter approached. At minute 62, the floodlights failed, sending the entire stadium into darkness, and the match was called in England’s favor, 17-15. Despite another near-win, Hayroud again was pleased with the progress.

 “We were able to correct our use of the ball from game to game,” Hayroud told RugbyWorldCup.com.“ “We didn’t perform very well in the [Six Nations] final where we struggled to find solutions. We had broken several times, but without scoring, while in the second game we broke but we scored. It was very encouraging for the end of the match, even if it did not end in good conditions.”

France's Chloe Jacquet attacks against the Canada defense on day three of the HSBC Spain Sevens Seville at La Cartuja Stadium on 30 January, 2022. Photo credit Martin Seras Lima

In between 15s assemblies, France cheered on its national 7s team as it won Silver at the Tokyo Olympics. Les Bleus flyhalf Caroline Drouin was particularly dazzling, and reasserted that fact during the three-test fall tour. The masterful playmaker drove a 46-3 win against South Africa, a game that also saw Emeline Gros (2), Safi N’Diaye (2) Laure Sansus, Mélissande Llorens and Boujard all score tries.

And then New Zealand came to town. The Black Ferns had dropped two games (43-12, 56-15) to England before arriving in France, and Les Bleus were equally as brutal as opponents. On Nov. 13, France posted its biggest-ever win against New Zealand - 38-13 - dotting down six tries to the visitors’ one. A week later and in front of 12,500 spectators in the sold-out Pierre Fabre stadium in Castres, France won its fourth-straight game against the Black Ferns, 29-7.

Hayraud had good intel for forming the 2022 Women’s Six Nations squad, and the 35 players named will fuel the first three matches. Gaelle Hermet returns as team captain, and the flanker will get balanced support from backs like Drouin and fullback Jessy Tremouliere. Notable absences due to injury include the incomparable N’Diaye in the second row; scoring machine Boujard; and Bourdon, who was locked in a tight battle for scrumhalf with Stade Toulousain teammate Sansus. But those players and others may be available for the second half of the season.

France has been at the National Centre of Rugby in Marcoussis since March 17 and will roll into its Women’s Rugby Six Nations opener against Italy on March 27. And while the squad will not be looking past any opponent this tournament, there are 16 players who were rostered for the 2021 final against England, and will be hungry for the Round 5 match on April 30.

FIXTURES & RESULTS

27 March - France 39 - 6 Italy

2 April - France 40 - 5 Ireland

10 April - France 28 - 8 Scotland

22 April - France 33- 5 Wales 

30 April - France v England 14:15 UK

FRANCE SQUAD

Julie Annery – Stade Français
Paris Cyrielle Banet – Montpellier RC
Rose Bernadou – Montpellier RC
Axelle Berthoumieu – Blagnac Rugby Féminin
Camille Boudaud – Stade Toulousain Rugby
Emilie Boulard – RC Chilly Mazarin
Yllana Brosseau – Stade Bordelais
Marie Aurélie Castel – Stade Rennais Rugby
Alexandra Chambon – FC Grenoble Amazones
Annaëlle Deshaye – Lyon Olympique Universitaire Coumba Diallo – Stade Français Paris
Célia Domain – Blagnac Rugby Féminin
Caroline Drouin – Stade Rennais Rugby
Charlotte Escudero – Blagnac Rugby Féminin
Madoussou Fall – Stade Bordelais
Manae Feleu – FC Grenoble Amazones
Maëlle Filopon – Stade Toulousain Rugby
Audrey Forlani – Blagnac Rugby Féminin
Emeline Gros – Montpellier RC
Gaëlle Hermet – Stade Toulousain Rugby
Chloé Jacquet – Lyon Olympique Universitaire
Clara Joyeux – Blagnac Rugby Féminin
Assia Khalfaoui – Stade Bordelais
Coco Lindelauf – Blagnac Rugby Féminin
Mélissande Llorens – Blagnac Rugby Féminin
Marjorie Mayans – Blagnac Rugby Féminin
Marine Menager – Montpellier RC
Romane Menager – Montpellier RC
Léa Murie – Stade Toulousain Rugby
Morgane Peyronnet – Montpellier RC
Laure Sansus – Stade Toulousain Rugby
Agathe Sochat – Stade Bordelais
Laure Touye – Montpellier RC
Jessy Tremouliere – ASM Romagnat Rugby Féminin
Gabrielle Vernier - Blagnac Rugby Féminin

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