Source: INPHO

England v France – The Inquests

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Here are some reactions to one great game of rugby:

First, Gaelle Mignot’s droop of the head as she realises how close her team have got once more to beating England. From 33-0 down at the break to a 5-point margin at the close. We can justly claim that neither side played an 80-minute game. Mignot’s own thoughts come below.

Gabrielle Vernier, an astute thinker about the game as well as an outstanding player, called the match both historic and frustrating. Her team were pleased to be taking part in such a landmark event, but were five to ten minutes short of achieving something truly incredible. Delighted as she was to see that huge crowd, she would have preferred to see 58,000 compatriots in a French stadium.

(That raises the lingering question of using the Stade de France, the only French stadium to match Twickenham in size, but which doesn’t belong to the French Federation. Otherwise only a club stadium looks possible. Two come to mind: Roazhon Park, home of Stade Rennais in Rennes and the Stade des Alpes Grenoble. Both hold just under 30,000. Grenoble has held celebrated Six Nations games; Rennes only football internationals.)

For Pauline Bourdon, although it was the end of the 6N adventure, she looks forward to a future full of promise with a young team of such potential.

Agathe Sochat recognised her team’s failure to exploit their early advantage, but the English responded with counter-attacks taken straight out of the French primer. When les Bleues were reduced to 13, the odds were against them, but in the second half they showed what they were made of. That sets the tone for the future; they are creating something.

Gaëlle Hermet offered: ‘Heads still held high’.

France was full of good wishes for Jessy Trémoulière, the ‘Duchess’. Her record: 78 caps, 77 Sevens caps, World Player of the Year 2018, Player of the Decade 2010-2020, 2 Grand Slams.

The boss Gaëlle Mignot, said: ‘Defeat is never simple or pleasant. It will allow us to learn and to build our game, our team.’ She was disappointed by the first-half performance but acclaimed the players’ spirit in the second. This was one step in the forward progress of the team.

David Ortiz’s half-time message was to take control of the game, retain possession, master the one-on-ones and take control of the lines of advance. The players showed that spirit – they must build on it now.

Audrey Forlani had a similar story to tell. She wanted her side to show that second-half determination in future matches. It was a launching-pad for better things.

The great French sports paper, L’Equipe, headlined it like this: ‘From nightmare to hope, les Bleues came close to success in England’. And: ‘overwhelmed in the first half, they fought back in the second half to avoid a humiliation and almost achieve victory.’

On the English side Gill Burns’ speech at the unveiling of the first ever women’s honours board at Twickenham, was enough to ensure victory alone, but unfortunately it had to come before the match. There can be no doubt that her words inspired the squad.

Another former great saw the game as ‘a truly great match between two sides going toe to toe. But the day was so much much bigger than that. It was about getting the recognition it deserves, about the hordes of rugby fans purely there for the women’ – Rochelle Clark.

Sadia Kabeya has told the BBC that was the most nervous she had ever been in a match. But she’s still young!

Abby Dow (speaking to the same saw the game as proving how competitive the women’s game is now. Th crowds enjoy the game because it’s so lively. As regards the second half (5-33!): if there weren’t things to work on, she‘d be more worried.

Our Italian friend at Ladies Rugby Club ( finished his report with the words: ‘the Twickenham crowd [rose] to cheer the victorious Red Roses and salute Simon Middleton who completed his adventure with win number 77 and his sixth championship’.

After France’s hesitant performance against Italy, he didn’t see them overcoming England. A new coaching staff, some new faces and new patterns of play meant they would take time to gel.

For that departing figure these were the final thoughts: ‘We’ve had some great successes and some failures. But that’s sport. I couldn’t be prouder, and it’s not a bad place to step out.’ – Simon Middleton.