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France Women: The Story of the Grand Slam

France Women: The Story of the Grand Slam


France Women came out of 2017 wondering what might have been after a pair of third-place finishes in the Six Nations and then the World Cup.

France Women came out of 2017 wondering what might have been after a pair of third-place finishes in the Six Nations and then the World Cup.

Led by a new captain in 21-year-old Gaëlle Hermet and with an overhauled squad, they responded in the best possible way by recording to the fifth Grand Slam in their history.

There was no question that the key moment in the campaign came in their Round Four victory over England, with Jessy Trémoulière’s try two minutes from time earning an 18-17 win in Grenoble in front of a world record crowd.

However this Grand Slam goes far beyond simply that late try at the Stade des Alpes.

With an average age of just 24.5, the starting line-up in Wales showed huge maturity, led by a new pair of half-backs, 22-year-old Pauline Bourdon and 21-year-old Caroline Drouin.

With a conveyor belt of talent coming through the France Under-20s in recent seasons, Les Bleues have looked to a new generation to lead them forward and it has paid off immediately.

France scored 24 tries across five games, second only to England, but defensively they really shone, conceding just two and a total of 23 points.

Their mantra of ‘hungry and humble’ was clearly important, and those values shone through in the performances.

So as France celebrate their well-earned success, we look back at how they did it:
France 24 Ireland 0
In last year’s Six Nations, France were narrowly beaten in Ireland in Round Three to leave themselves out of contention for the overall title, although they gained some measure of revenge later that year at the World Cup.

In Toulouse this season, they kicked off their Six Nations campaign in the best possible fashion with a dominant success.

Jade Le Pesq scored two tries, including the bonus-point score, with the remaining tries coming from Cyrielle Banet, and inevitably, Trémoulière.
Scotland 3 France 26
After a record success at home to Ireland, France travelled to a resurgent Scotland, and spent much of the first half behind on the scoreboard.

They eventually took the lead five minutes before half-time through hooker Agathe Sochat, another of the new generation.

Banet grabbed a second before the break, and having lead 12-3, France extended their advantage with nine minutes to go thanks to a try from winger Caroline Boujard.

They then secured the bonus point through Le Pesq once again, to keep pace with England at the top of the table.

France 57 Italy 0
In front of a vociferous crowd in Corsica, Les Bleues produced their best performance of the Six Nations to date when they put Italy to the sword.

Showing a clinical side in attack, Banet got France going with two quick tries and they had six by half-time with Julie Duval, Trémoulière, Marine Ménager and Sochat also crossing for a 38-0 lead.

They were then kept quiet for more than half an hour in the second half, but with seven minutes remaining, Yanna Rivoalen went over for number seven, followed by Ménager and Bourdon in a record victory over the Azzurre.
France 18 England 17
With both teams 15 from 15, the clash at the Stade des Alpes was always going to be the crucial game in the Championship, and 17,440 people came to watch.

The world record crowd were treated to a thriller, with England taking an early lead thanks to Abby Dow’s try.

France hit back through Trémoulière and Caroline Drouin to lead 10-7 at the break, but England were back in front not long after thanks to Amy Cokayne’s try.

Trémoulière and Katy Daley-McLean exchanged penalties but with two minutes left France were 17-13 down.

That’s when Trémoulière popped up for her second, showing her strength and desire to power over for the crucial score, to the delight of the home crowd.
Wales 3 France 38

France travelled to Wales as heavy favourites to clinch the Grand Slam, but having slipped up on the road against supposedly weaker teams in the past, there were understandably some nerves.

They were quickly eased by tries from Bourdon and Drouin in the first 12 minutes, but France spent most of the rest of the half defending.

And yet when the chance came, Trémoulière again stepped up, forcing her way over to give Les Bleues a 19-3 interval lead.

Again Wales pressed and pressed in the second half, but the French defence was able to shut them down, and when the chances came France’s way, they took them, with a penalty try followed by scores for Sochat and Carla Neisen.

That clinched a memorable Grand Slam for Les Bleues, and with such a young team, Annick Hayraud and her coaching team will go into next year’s Championship with immense confidence, and deservedly so.