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Preview: The Women’s Six Nations stars bidding for Olympic glory in Tokyo

Preview: The Women’s Six Nations stars bidding for Olympic glory in Tokyo

The Tokyo Olympics are almost upon us with the women’s rugby sevens beginning on 29th July and there are plenty of familiar names as part of the Great Britain and France squads.

Team GB is made up of the best players from England, Scotland and Wales, with the Red Roses dominating the team.

Five players who took part in the 2021 Women’s Six Nations are part of the Great Britain squad but first, let’s look at the French team.

Grand Slams galore for French squad

Camille Grassineau is returning for her second Olympics and will be remembered for scoring the first-ever Olympics try in rugby sevens.

Grassineau was part of the Grand Slam-winning squad in 2014, scoring tries against Scotland, Wales and Ireland.

The wing played alongside fellow Olympian Caroline Drouin in their 2017 win in Italy, France’s first win there since 2011.

The 25-year-old played in the 2018 campaign, scoring in the final-round win against Wales which confirmed France’s fifth Grand Slam.

Shannon Izar is another Grand Slam winner, achieving the feat in 2014, and scored tries against England and Scotland in the 2017 Championship.

Jade Ulutule (previously le Pesq) also scored against Scotland that year, racking up two tries, which she did against Ireland a year later.

Ulutule is a versatile player both in XVs and sevens, playing in three positions in the opening round of the 2018 Grand Slam campaign.

Big-game experience

France are led by Fanny Horta who is one of four French players making their return to the Olympics after the Les Bleues recorded a sixth-place finish out in Rio.

More recently Horta has focused on sevens, but did feature for France in the Six Nations, starring in a 19-9 win over Ireland back in 2010.
Coralie Bertrand has big-game experience for France having been on the bench against England in 2016, which saw the French crowned Six Nations champions in a last-round title decider.

Centre Carla Neisen is also good under pressure having featured for Les Bleues against England in 2018 in front of a record crowd in Grenoble.

Chloé Pelle is an exciting option the French have up their sleeve, Pelle replaced Olympics teammate Grassineau for the final game of the 2017 Championship, also coming off the bench in the win over Ireland in 2019.

Out to avenge fourth place

While there are plenty of new faces in the Team GB side, a couple will be hoping to do better than the fourth-place finish achieved out in Rio.

Natasha Hunt will also want to make up for lost time having missed out on England’s 2021 Six Nations win through injury.

However, Hunt played in every single match of the 2019 Women’s Six Nations in which England were crowned Grand Slam champions and was also part of the Red Roses squad that repeated the feat a year later.

Wales’ Jasmine Joyce was also part of Great Britain’s squad out in Rio and made her XVs debut for Wales against Scotland in 2017.

Meg Jones, who will co-captain Team GB alongside Abbie Brown, also experienced the Rio Olympics, but as a reserve for the Great Britain squad.

The Red Rose was part of the England team who won the 2021 Women’s Six Nations, and the centre was named Player of the Match in the Round 2 win over Italy.

From Six Nations champions to Games glory?

Following the disbandment of the RFU’s sevens programme, Helena Rowland and Alex Matthews slotted in perfectly to England’s XV side.

Rowland is seen as a natural successor to Olympian Katy Daley-Mclean and was impressive with the boot in 2021, contributing to England’s third Championship in as many years having won the Grand Slam the year before.

Loose forward Matthews won a World Cup with England in 2014 before switching to sevens but made a winning return to the XV-a-side game, winning in 2020 and 2021 alongside Rowland.

Scotland’s sole representative Hannah Smith will look to build on a disappointing 2021 Six Nations, which saw Scotland finish fifth.

Smith did score Scotland’s only try in their 52-10 loss to England at the beginning of the Championship so is definitely someone to keep an eye on.

Full Squads

France: Coralie Bertrand, Anne-Cécile Ciofani, Caroline Drouin, Camille Grassineau, Lina Guerin, Fanny Horta (captain), Shannon Izar, Chloé Jacquet, Carla Neisen, Séraphine Okemba, Chloé Pelle, Jade Ulutule, Reserve: Joanna Grisez, Nassira Konde, Yolaine Yengo

Great Britain: Celia Quansah, Deborah Fleming, Alex Matthews, Abbie Brown (co-captain), Abi Burton, Holly Aitchison, Natasha Hunt, Megan Jones (co-captain), Helena Rowland, Hannah Smith, Emma Uren, Jasmine Joyce, Reserve: Lisa Thomson