“Every year, barring a misstep, we know that the winner of France-England will win the Tournament” of the six nations women, slips the tricolor scrum half Yanna Rivoalen. The 2021 edition of the competition is no exception to the rule. Saturday April 24, the Blue find in “final” their English rivals, against which they remain on a series of seven defeats.
The poster was almost run in advance, as the Tournament brings together and opposes a rugby two-speed. On the one hand, the amateur teams of Ireland, Wales and Scotland (although nine Scottish women have professional or semi-professional contracts), on the other France and England, whose players are semi-professional or professional.
After winning the 2019 edition, the English steamroller successively crushed the Scots and Italians
On the green rectangle, this heterogeneity is illustrated by clear scores. This year, for their entry into the Tournament, on April 3, the Blue swept the Welsh 53-0, worsening the record set last year in Cardiff (50-0). After winning the 2019 edition, with 45 tries scored, the English steamroller successively crushed the Scots (52-10) and the Italians (67-3).
Between them, the XV of France and the XV of the Rose trust 22 of the 25 editions of the tournament (which successively counted four, five and then six participants), leaving the other nations only the crumbs: two victories for the XV of Trèfle , one for the XV du Chardon (at the time when only the British played).
New international meeting
The coach of the France team, Samuel Cherouk, says he expects “To play a High Tournament within the next three years”. But it is the creation of a new international meeting, announced on March 18 by the governing body of world rugby, World Rugby, which could lead the Blue to “Pass a course”, according to the terms of the third line Romane Ménager.
Called “WXV”, the competition will see the light of day in 2023. It will consist of three divisions, with relegations and promotions. The first of these divisions will be made up of the top three teams from the Six Nations Tournament and the top three from the future interregional tournament, which will pit Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States against each other.
Funded to the tune of 7.5 million euros by World Rugby, this world tournament will be played in an international window from September to October, excluding World Cup years, and must “Facilitate the transition of the Women’s World Cup from 12 to 16 teams in 2025”, World Rugby President Bill Beaumont said in a statement.
For French women, this may well lead to “Take some nice beating”, facing the members of the World top 5, like England, current number one, New Zealand, Canada and Australia, warns Carole Gomez, research director at the Institute of International and Strategic Relations (IRIS), specialized in the geopolitics of rugby. But it could also allow them to “Correct [leurs] mistakes and be pulled up “, she continues.
An opportunity to be more “conquerors”
The second tricolor line Safi N’Diaye sees an opportunity to be more “Conquerors” and no longer “Let yourself be surprised by teams with different games and temperaments”. “We will face teams physically a cut above those of the Six Nations Tournament”, admits Yanna Rivoalen.
Opponents that the “Hungry” – the nickname given to the Blue – until then met in a disparate way, during the autumn or summer tours without stakes. Or during the World Cup, every three or four years, a competition where the French have always been at the forefront, but have always stumbled on the last few steps – they were six times third (in 1991, 1994, 2002, 2006, 2014 and 2017).
The vice-president of the French Rugby Federation in charge of women’s rugby, Brigitte Jugla, hopes, for her part, that the new international tournament will also allow female players to“Gain experience and raise the level of play in clubs”. In the French Elite Championship, “The level of the matches is not sufficient to raise the level of play of the internationals”, supports Laura Di Muzio, Villeneuve-d’Ascq player and consultant for France Télévisions.
The Top 16 is dominated by the two main suppliers of the French women’s XV: Montpellier RC, eight-time winner of the title, and Stade Toulouse, finalist in the two previous editions.
In the meantime, to win, on Saturday, the Crunch against the English, who “Meet three times a week, forty-five weeks a year”, the Blue will have to “Take out the peaked helmet”, warned the coach, Samuel Cherouk.