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France look to bounce back in 2021

Gaëlle Hermet

By their own high standards, 2020 was disappointing for France and captain Gaëlle Hermet is targeting a bounce back in the 2021 Women’s Six Nations.

Beaten three times by England, including a heartbreaking late loss at Twickenham in November, as well as drawing with Scotland in the Women’s Six Nations, Les Bleues struggled to find the consistency they crave.

There were big wins over Italy and Wales however, with the latter heading to France this weekend for the Women’s Six Nations opener in Vannes.

And for Hermet, the ambition going into the Women’s Six Nations must be to claim the title for the first time since 2018.

Speaking at the launch, she said: “Our goal would be to win the Six Nations. But our goal is also to play the best rugby we can play and deliver a good rugby performance, to do our best.

“We want to show our tactics and to deliver the game plan we have prepared. The ultimate goal is to win the Championship and make people happy as they are watching the games.

“We have worked on the match (draw with Scotland), we’ve questioned ourselves and tried to work out why we got that result on the pitch. We worked on the video and worked on the next match. What I can say is that we learned a lot from that match. We questioned ourselves. We know that Scotland are a very good team, they have proved again and again that they can deliver big performances so it’s the type of match we can learn from and it helps us prepare for the next matches.”

Les Bleues have been at their Marcoussis base since Sunday as they prepare for the first game at the Stade de la Rabine.

Traditionally French grounds provide some of the best atmospheres in the game, and Hermet knows the team will have to make up for the lack of crowds by producing entertaining rugby on the pitch.

She explained: “Rugby players are used to spectators, that’s part of the game and part of the event. So it’s sad to see the stadium empty but we know that it is due to the situation, but we know the supporters are there behind their screens supporting us.

“We have been prepared for that, we feel it when we walk on the pitch. Because when you walk on the pitch and have 20,000 people cheering, it’s one thing and if you walk on the same pitch and it’s empty, it’s completely different. But our mission is to keep the stadium bouncing and to ensure people are still bouncing at home behind their screens.”

After the game with Wales, Les Bleues will travel to Ireland for their second encounter, and Hermet is relishing the opportunity to get out and play.

She added: “We were lucky because we were able to play for our clubs which is not true for everybody, for example amateur clubs can’t play any longer so we feel like we are representing them.

“The preparations have carried on almost as usual, although we adapted to the sanitary situation which was adapted in such a way that we could prepare and we would be able to play the Six Nations Championship.”