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The winning philosophy: Sandrine Agricole – France Women

The winning philosophy: Sandrine Agricole – France Women

The final hurdle for the France Women’s team before collecting a Grand Slam this weekend is a match against current Six Nations holders Ireland.

The final hurdle for the France Women’s team before collecting a Grand Slam this weekend is a match against current Six Nations holders Ireland.

Despite this pressure on the horizon, French out-half Sandrine Agricole remains philosophical, passionate as well as utterly determined before this crunch weekend.

In talking about the fixture, she shows the same resolve this French side have shown during this Six Nations campaign: “There is not just hope but a lot of determination and desire to win this game. Our tactics have been discussed over and over between the players and coaching staff to be ready for the match against Ireland.”

Agricole and her teammates’ focus will be on the match itself rather than on any thoughts of the Championship and Grand Slam: “Before we think about the Grand Slam, we have a match to win. It is very important to play as perfect a match as possible against Ireland in order to win the Grand Slam.”

So how does Agricole prepare to play as close to perfect a game as possible?

She stresses the importance of clarity and understanding the opposition in terms of preparation for a test match: “Coming up to a game, I am totally focused and concentrating on my role and thinking about the other team, so this week watching videos of how Ireland play. I will look at a lot of video footage of the opposition, so I can know their strengths and weaknesses.

“I will also spend a lot of time looking at how the opposition player in my position works on the pitch. For me having this opportunity to analyse their game and to then analyse my own game, will give me a lot more confidence on the pitch in how I play.”

If France are to win this weekend, it will be something of a belated birthday gift for the player who turned 34 this week.

The back was first capped for France in 2003 and her seniority in the squad is something that she cherishes: “In the French Women’s team, I am the oldest player, so a lot of the younger players respect me and because of that there is a lot of respect coming each way so, there is a great deal of closeness between us on and off the field.”

She adds: “There is also a lot of trust between us a team and I think that can be seen in how we play together.”

Agricole describes with great enthusiasm her first encounter with the sport she loves:  “I started to play rugby in school when I was 11 years old. It was an amazing experience because I had found a sport that gave me a lot of freedom with the ball, I could kick it, and I could run with it.

“I just love the game! I love the movements you have in rugby and that sense of connection with your teammates.”

Having grown up in Paris, Agricole now lives and plays her rugby in Brittany in the city of Rennes. She plays for Stade Rennais Rugby in the Top 10, the women’s equivalent of the Top 14.

As well as her rugby career, she is currently studying to be a physiotherapist and will sit her final exams this coming June.

But combining top-level rugby with her studies does not faze her: “The balance between playing rugby and studying is not difficult. If I am well organised and working hard it is not a problem.”

Agricole shows her experience as both a player and a thinker on the rugby field when she talks about the nuances of playing at fly-half: “The position of out half is the ultimate position for me, it allows me to direct the game, it is a position that has a lot of responsibility.
“You have to be very prepared on a psychological level and stay calm in order to maintain a harmony in the team around you.”

She also provides a fascinating insight into her mind set as a place kicker: “Taking the kicks for me is not about psychological pressure it is about the responsibility because when I take a kick successfully it creates a positivity for all my teammates around me in the match.”

There has been some talk of Agricoles’s impending retirement from the game after this summer’s Women’s Rugby World Cup but for now she would “rather to just play and to live for each game”.

The World Cup will be on home soil for Agricole and this means a lot to her: “It is always very special to be able play in your own country in front of your family and friends. It is a great opportunity to hopefully develop women’s rugby in France and that with the World Cup being here, the development and interest will happen much more quickly than usual.”

When asked how she would sell rugby to young girls, the philosopher in Agricole returns: “In France it is often said that rugby is the school of life, so if she wants to become a great person, on and off the pitch – then she should play rugby.”

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