Source: FFR

Another new French Captain – Manae Feleu

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As the French squad fly out to New Zealand this Sunday, the management drop a big surprise on rugby fans.

Manae Feleu is appointed to lead the team through the three WXV matches.

‘Surprise’ is hardly the word. The new co-coaches had caused an upset by demoting Gaëlle Hermet from the captaincy for the start of the 2023 Six Nations campaign. Her replacement, Audrey Forlani, was far senior to her in international experience and the captain of the highly successful Blagnac team. Even so, the switch came as a shock. It was doubled when Hermet found herself confined to the bench.
Both players now take their seats on the plane, but neither as captain. Once more, that vital detail was omitted when the full squad was first announced. On the day of departure comes confirmation of the new appointee.

Feleu has certain distinct advantages in taking over responsibilty. Born in the Futuna Islands in Oceania, she spent part of her schooldays in New Zealand at Karamu College. There she played alongside Awhina Tangen-Wainohu, who went on to become a Black Fern. She moved to France with the double purpose of playing rugby (with Grenoble Amazones) and studying to become a surgeon.
So she is the one team member to be familiar with the host country. In that respect she resembles Amy Cokayne, who had a parallel school career there, so is able to show her team-mates the ropes.

One difference between the two players is their age. Feleu is still only 23, two years older than Hermet when she was appointed captain. But like both of them she made her mark quickly. She debuted for France against England in November 2020, then played two games in the latest World Cup.

Now that she is confirmed as captain, that must decrease Forlani’s chances of appearing. Assuming Madoussou Fall is restored to full fitness, she and the new captain will present a formidable second row.

It’s no surprise that Feleu expressed her total shock at the invitation. She had been expecting the call that all 540 WXV players must have experienced – in or out? – but not the offer to lead the troops into battle.

Congratulations to her.