Super-heavyweight Title Bout – Round 2

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The French squad announced

Everyone who represented France in the last two rounds is picked for the clinching joust against England. Once more the selectors have named 37 players to ensure that all corners are covered. They are:

ANNERY Julie (Stade Bordelais), ARBEZ Carla (Stade Bordelais), BANET Cyrielle (Montpellier), BERNADOU Rose (Montpellier), BERTHOUMIEU Axelle (Blagnac), BOUJARD Caroline (Montpellier), BOULARD Émilie (Blagnac), BOURDON Pauline (Stade Toulousain), BOURGEOIS Morgane (Stade Bordelais), BROSSEAU Ylana (Bobigny 93), CHAMBON Alexandra (Grenoble), CHAMPON Léa (Grenoble), DESHAYE Annaëlle (Stade Bordelais), DUCES Margaux (Stade Rennais), DUPOUY Marie (Blagnac), ESCUDERO Charlotte (Blagnac), FELEU Manae (Grenoble), FILOPON Maelle (Stade Toulousain), FORLANI Audrey (Blagnac), GRACIET Lilou (LOU), GROS Emeline (Grenoble), HERMET Gaëlle (Stade Toulousain), JOYEUX Clara (Blagnac), KHALFAOUI Assia (Stade Bordelais), LEVY Maé (Montpellier, LINDELAUF Coco (Blagnac), LLORENS Mélissande (Blagnac), MENAGER Marine (Montpellier), MENAGER Romane (Montpellier), MWAYEMBE Ambre (Grenoble), PICUT Maëlle (Blagnac), RIFFONEAU Elisa (Stade Rennais), SOCHAT Agathe (Stade Bordelais), SYLLA Mabinty (Stade Bordelais), TOUYÉ Laure (Montpellier), TREMOULLIERE Jessy (ASM Romagnat), VERNIER Gabrielle (Blagnac)

So the sole absentee remains Madoussou Fall, whose pre-tournament injury counted her out. For the sake of the occasion itself, it is vital that there are as few enforced absentees as possible.

England will not prove as fortunate.

Competition for the final 23 places will be tough. Few of the younger, less experienced players are likely to figure, but the mere experience of visiting Twickenham on such a day will be tranformative for them. We can expect to see several of them playing regularly for Les Bleues in the near future.

What France are attempting on Saturday they haven’t achieved since 2015, a win on English soil.
But that means they have won there before, and they are good enough to repeat the feat. The run of losses they have suffered confounds the laws of probability. So often they have been thwarted at the last minute (the 83rd in one case!), and margins have mostly been tiny.

Here’s a look at the last encounter, which was electric in its own right. The teams:


15 Chloé Jacquet, 14 Caroline Boujard, 13 Maelle Filopon, 12 Gabrielle Vernier, 11 Marine Ménager, 10 Caroline Drouin, 9 Laure Sansus, 1 Annaëllle Deshayes, 2 Agathe Sochat, 3 Clara Joyeux, 4 Madoussou Fall, 5 Audrey Forlani, 6 Céline Ferer, 7 Gaëlle Hermet (captain), 8 Romane Ménager


16 Laure Touyé, 17 Coco Lindelauf, 18 Yllana Brosseau, 19 Julie Annery, 20 Emeline Gros, 21 Alexandre Chambon 22. Jessy Trémoulière, 23 Emilie Boulard


15. Helena Rowland (Loughborough Lightning),14 Lydia Thompson (Worcester Warriors),13. Emily Scarratt (captain, Loughborough Lightning),12. Holly Aitchison (Saracens),11. Jess Breach (Harlequins), 10. Zoe Harrison (Saracens), 9. Leanne Infante (Bristol Bears), 1. Vickii Cornborough (Harlequins), 2. Lark Davies (Loughborough Lightning), 3. Sarah Bern (Bristol Bears), 4. Zoe Aldcroft (Gloucester-Hartpury), 5. Abbie Ward (Bristol Bears), 6. Alex Matthews (Worcester Warriors), 7. Marlie Packer (Saracens), 8. Poppy Cleall (Saracens)


16. Amy Cokayne (Harlequins), 17. Hannah Botterman (Saracens), 18. Maud Muir (Wasps), 19. Rosie Galligan (Harlequins), 20. Sarah Beckett (Harlequins), 21. Sadia Kabeya (Loughborough Lightning), 22 Natasha Hunt (Gloucester-Hartpury), 23. Ellie Kildunne (Harlequins)

Result: 12-24

That game had its own back-story which has its resonances for England fans. It took place in Bayonne where the local women’s team, a familiar presence in Elite 1, folded amidst accusations of neglect and male disregard. The FFR were still prepared to stage their biggest game of the season there.

Then the RFU followed suit by offering a game in Newcastle, cantre of a region that has now been left without a single Premier 15s club within a hundred miles.

England’s performance didn’t please the onlookers. The emphasis was firmly on the forwards, and the driving maul in particular. That became a central talking-point after New Zealand regained the World Cup a few months later.

This season the Red Roses have returned to a more expansive game. On Saturday we will see whether it is enough to beat a determined and skilful French side.

Missing Faces

Compared with the sides likely to appear next Saturday at Twickenham, we can spot some significant absences:

France: Laure Sansus, Céline Ferer, Safi N’Diaye, (all retired), Caroline Drouin (7s); Madoussou Fall (injured).

England: Emily Scarratt, Leanne Infante, Poppy Cleall, Rosie Galligan, (all injured), Vickii Cornborough (personal reasons), Abbie Ward (pregnancy). Add to them several other injured parties not on show in Bayonne, like Bryony Cleall, Vicky Fleetwood, Laura Keates and Detysha Harper.

Then there are the injuries to Marlie Packer and Hannah Botterman suffered last week, which will test England’s strength in depth once more if they prove too serious.

We await the final team selection with some concern.

Despite the one-sided look to the Ireland score (0-48), England fell far short of their normal standards last week. Fumbles mounted into double figures, and there was more than half-an-hour of second-half play before they were able to add to their total. Three late scores proved their staying power, but France won’t be crumbling in the last ten minutes; of that we can be sure.