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Ireland at the 2019 Rugby World Cup

#WRWC2017 Team Profile: France

#WRWC2017 Team Profile: France

Pool C at the Women’s Rugby World Cup is shaping up to be a real humdinger, with Australia and Japan both improving with more Tests under their belts and Six Nations rivals Ireland and France eyeing up a possible winner-takes-all clash on August 17. We profile the French challenge.

FRANCE

Head Coach: Samuel Cherouk
Team Captain: Gaëlle Mignot
Women’s Rugby World Cup Record: 1991 (Third), 1994 (Third), 1998 (Eighth), 2002 (Third), 2006 (Third), 2010 (Fourth), 2014 (Third)
Current World Ranking: 4th

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WRWC 2017 Fixtures:

Pool C –

France v Japan, Billings Park, UCD, 7.45pm, Wednesday, August 9
France v Australia, UCD Bowl, 7.45pm, Sunday, August 13
France v Ireland, UCD Bowl, 7.45pm, Thursday, August 17

Play-Offs –

Semi-Finals, Kingspan Stadium/Ranking Games, Queen’s University, Tuesday, August 22
Finals, Kingspan Stadium/Ranking Games, Queen’s University, Saturday, August 26

Best WRWC Moment: The 2014 Women’s Rugby World Cup on home soil did not end the way France wanted it to. They missed out on a coveted final appearance, losing to Canada at the semi-final stage and then beating Ireland to bronze. However, the tournament was a huge success for the FFR, with attendances of 20,000 in the last-four and big TV audiences and increased participation rates across the country.

Soundbites: Samuel Cherouk – “We had our squad 85% in place after the Six Nations. Some girls were selected because we were satisfied with their performances on the pitch or within the group. We debated the final few spots after our fourth training camp for the World Cup.

“We know that we’re going to spend a lot of time together and we want girls who fully embrace our philosophy. We also need strong individuals to move the team forward. Selection is always complicated for us as coaches. We try to get the best team possible by always having the collective in mind.

“We’re really focused on rugby, there’s a lot of ball-playing in training as well as the fitness work. We saw in the New Zealand-Canada game (last month) that there was more than 40 minutes of ball-in-play time. So, we know the team that will be world champions will be a team that plays a lot of rugby with very long and intense phases.”

Safi N’Diaye – “Since the 2014 World Cup, more people are in the stadiums or they are seeing us on TV and they really enjoy watching us play. They think the game is interesting. I think how people see us has evolved and the World Cup helped.

“Now we are preparing for the World Cup in Ireland and we have a lot of supporters following us. I think we are a strong team because the older players have experience as well as the new ones. We also have the girls from the Sevens, and I think playing with a mixed group like that will be a strength.

“This multi-talented and diverse group of players will help us go well. There is a lot of work to be done but we’re confident. We are hard working people and we will do anything to reach our goal.”

Did You Know?: Sevens star Elodie Guiglion, who played at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, scored a brace of second half tries when then-hosts France defeated Ireland 25-18 in a play-off to finish third at the 2014 WRWC. It was the fifth time that les Bleues had ended up in third spot at a Women’s Rugby World Cup.

Team Profile: As one of the more established teams in the tournament and with a current world ranking of fourth, the France Women are deservedly being talked up as potential World Cup winners in Ireland next month.

However, as good as their record in recent competitions is – they were Six Nations champions in 2014 and 2016 and third-place finishers when they hosted the World Cup in 2014 – it is their away form that has been an obvious stumbling block. Their hopes of defending their Six Nations title were scuppered last spring with losses to England at Twickenham (26-13) and Ireland at Donnybrook (13-10).

Take a look back at their results since the last World Cup and they have regularly tripped up on road trips, losing to Ireland twice, England three times, and Italy, Wales and Canada once each. So, if they can banish their away-day blues in Dublin in a few weeks’ time, it could be the making of them.

Les Bleues should be a very different animal to the side that contested the Six Nations. New head coach Samuel Cherouk had only come on board after Christmas, so three wins and four bonus points did give them something to work with heading into their World Cup preparations which have involved numerous training camps around the country.

With a considerable amount of time together in camp, and a 28-strong squad that is gelling nicely behind closed doors, Gaëlle Mignot (pictured above) and her team-mates are not lacking in confidence as they look to negotiate their way past Ireland, Australia and Japan in Pool C and turn it up another notch or two for the Belfast knockout stages.

There is a nice historical link as France’s August 9 opener against Japan is a repeat of their first ever Women’s Rugby World Cup match, back in Aberavon in April 1991, which they won 62-0. They also played the Japanese at the 1994 tournament in Scotland, running out 99-0 winners. The scoreline should be an awful lot closer this time round.

French hooker and captain Mignot has said Japan are something of an ‘unknown quantity’ to them, although they have faced Australia at the last three World Cups and earned a 17-3 pool victory over them in Marcoussis three years ago thanks to a penalty try and a Mignot effort.

Their maul remains a big weapon, with Mignot, lock Lenaig Corson and strong-carrying number 8 Safi N’Diaye three key figures up front. Openside flanker Romane Menager (pictured above) is already making her mark at just 20, while skilful scrum half Jade Le Pesq, who made four starts during the Six Nations, can really make the back-line tick.

It is unclear, at present, who will be Le Pesq’s regular half-back partner at the World Cup. Christelle Le Duff and Camille Cabalou, who both started at number 10 in the spring, did not make the squad for Ireland 2017, with Cherouk now favouring the youthful trio of Audrey Abadie, Caroline Drouin and the uncapped Monserrat Amedee. The latter two are both 21 and very inexperienced, so Abadie from Blagnac Saint-Orens, who is 24 and has 12 caps to her name, looks the steadier option.

Outside them will be the classy centre pairing of Caroline Ladagnous and Elodie Poublan (pictured below), who are set to play at a third World Cup together. Ladagnous excelled with a five-try haul during the recent Six Nations, aided by Poublan’s slick distribution, footwork and ability to unlock defences.

The versatile Shannon Izar will be looking to impress on the world stage after an injury-disrupted Rio Olympics, and of the selected forwards, Annaëlle Deshayes and Dhia Traore are two youngsters to look out for. However, the French fielded almost the same pack throughout the Six Nations, with the front row of Lise Arricastre, Mignot and Julie Duval and the back row of Marjorie Mayans, Menager and N’Diaye both ever-present.

France’s build-up to the World Cup has differed from other teams, with les Bleues, who have 11 players back from the last World Cup, forgoing warm-up matches and instead focusing on intensive training camps. Six in all up to the current date, their most recent one in Marcoussis including 6am starts and wrestling in the gym and pitch sessions before breakfast.

Coaches Cherouk and Olivier Lievremont certainly have a hard-working bunch on their hands, and those Six Nations reversals away to eventual Grand Slam winners England and Ireland were the source of much frustration. Losing their Championship title earlier in the year has undoubtedly made them hungrier than ever for World Cup glory.

Confidence is high within the French set-up that they can pull it off. The players posed together in ‘Champions 2017’ T-shirts at a recent training camp in Clermont-Ferrand. There has been much talk about a potential pool decider between Ireland and France in the final round, but Mignot is mindful of the threat that Japan will pose first up.

“Unlike Japan, Ireland are a team that we know well. I will even say that it’s the game that I’m least afraid of. I’m more apprehensive about facing Japan because we have little information on them,” she told Quinze Mondial. “Ireland, as hosts, are certain to have big support behind them, but that also means extra pressure on them. It is up to us to manage our approach well and the first priority will be to win the first two games.

“We had a change of coach in January and after winning the Six Nations in 2016, we had a more difficult tournament this year. But the squad remained united, always focused on the same goal. This group, we’ve been working for three years now towards the World Cup. We’ve entered the final stretch and you can really feel the increase in concentration and motivation.” #BringIt

For more on the 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup, visit the tournament website – www.rwcwomens.com. Buy your match tickets for #WRWC2017 now on www.ticketmaster.co.uk/wrwc2017 and www.ticketmaster.ie/wrwc2017.

FRANCE WRWC Squad: Backs (14) – Audrey Abadie (Blagnac Saint-Orens Rugby Féminin), Montserrat Amedee (Montpellier RC/FFR), Caroline Boujard (Montpellier RC), Caroline Drouin (Stade Rennais), Camille Grassineau (Stade Francais/FFR), Elodie Guiglion (FFR), Shannon Izar (Lille Métropole RC Villeneuvois/FFR), Caroline Ladagnous (AC Bobigny 93/FFR), Jade Le Pesq (Stade Rennais/FFR), Marjorie Mayans (Blagnac Saint-Orens Rugby Féminin/FFR), Carla Neisen (Blagnac Saint-Orens Rugby Féminin), Chloé Pelle (Lille Métropole RC Villeneuvois/FFR), Elodie Poublan (Montpellier RC), Yanna Rivoalen (Lille Métropole RC Villeneuvois).

Forwards (14) – Manon Andre (Blagnac Saint-Orens Rugby Féminin), Julie Annery (AC Bobigny 93), Lise Arricastre (Lons Rugby Féminin Béarn Pyrénées), Patricia Carricaburu (Lons Rugby Féminin Béarn Pyrénées), Lénaig Corson (Stade Rennais/FFR), Annaëlle Deshayes (Ovalie Caennaise), Julie Duval (Ovalie Caennaise), Céline Ferer (AS Bayonne), Audrey Forlani (Blagnac Saint-Orens Rugby Féminin), Romane Menager (Lille Métropole RC Villeneuvois), Gaëlle Mignot (Montpellier RC) (capt), Safi N’Diaye (Montpellier RC), Caroline Thomas (ASM Romagnat), Dhia Traore (Stade Toulousain).

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