France v New Zealand – A Preview – And a Glance at the French Sevens Squad
It’s hard to imagine a more momentous day for French rugby: the men’s and women’s teams both take on New Zealand on Saturday.
One difference is that the men’s team rarely downs the All Blacks; the women are making a habit of beating the Black Ferns.
At the same time the game could hardly be more significant for the Ferns. They find themselves in uncharted territory, a side that is losing matches by a distance. Never before have they been so on the defensive; even the haka has not seemed so overwhelming a challenge. Camera close-ups on the forwards at Pau revealed young faces confronting daunting odds.
They were expecting a tough ride on tour, but not as tough as it has turned out to be.
They have three players yet to make their debut: prop Tanya Kalounivale, scrum-half Iritana Hohaia and back-row Kendra Reynolds.
Rumour has it that the Black Ferns will play further test matches against Australia, Canada and the USA in preparation for the home-based World Cup.
There are very few changes to the team (see below): Marie Aurélie Castel, who started against the Springboks, replaces Caroline Boujard on the wing. 19-year-old Chloé Jacquet is rewarded for her fine showing at Pau with the No 15 shirt.
For the rest, the management have decided to leave the starting XV well alone. The only other adjustments see Caroline Thomas, Julie Annery and Morgane Peyronnet take their place on the bench.
The squad is looking for consistency within games and across games. Like the Red Roses they know they have blown hot and cold in the past; now they want to play the 80 minutes in full control of events.
In the margin, the official attendance at Pau (population 76,275) was 11,928. That’s roughly 5,000 more than found their way to the Stoop for the Canada match (London population c.9,000,000).
15 Chloé Jacquet (Lyon OU), 14 Cyrielle Banet (Montpellier), 13 Maëlle Filopon (Stade Toulousain), 12 Gabrielle Vernier (Lille Métropole RC Villeneuvois), 11 Marie Aurélie Castel (Stade Rennais), 10 Caroline Drouin (Stade Rennais), 9 Pauline Bourdon (Stade Toulousain), 1 Coco Lindelauf (Blagnac), 2 Agathe Sochat (Montpellier), 3 Annaëlle Deshayes (Lyon OU), 4 Céline Ferer (Stade Toulousain), 5 Audrey Forlani (Blagnac), 6 Gaëlle Hermet (captain, Stade Toulousain), 7 Romane Ménager (Montpellier), 8 Emeline Gros (Montpellier)
Bench: 16 Laure Touyé (Montpellier), 17 Yllana Brosseau (AC Bobigny 93) 18 Clara Joyeux (Blagnac), 19 Safi N’Diaye (Montpellier), 20 Julie Annery (Stade Français), 21 Laure Sansus (Stade Toulousain), 22 Morgane Peyronnet (Montpellier) 23 Emilie Boulard (Chilly-Mazarin)
The Sevens Squad
Rugby in France is on (another) upward surge. While the Fifteen take on the Black Ferns, a completely different group goes to Dubai to dispute the first big Sevens tournament of the season.
This is one very strong squad (13 permitted) :
Anne Cécile Ciofani (Bobigny)
Camille Grassineau (FFR)
Carla Neisen (Blagnac)
Chloé Pelle (Chilly Mazarin)
Coralie Bertrand (Chilly Mazarin)
Iän Jason (Stade Toulousain)
Jade Ulutule (Stade Rennais)
Joanna Grisez (Bobigny)
Mathilde Coutouly (Blagnac)
Séraphine Okemba (Lyon OU)
Shannon Izar (Chilly Mazarin)
Valentine Lothoz (Stade Rennais)
Yolaine Yengo (Stade Rennais)
One interesting feature of this selection: there are far fewer players from the traditional rugby heartlands of the deep south than usual. Five are based in and around Paris and three more from Brittany.
The tournament divides in two, across 26-27 November and 2-3 December. Covid precautions will be maintained.