Serge Simon is the French Federation (FFR)’s Vice-President in charge of the France’s national teams, has been speaking the importance of women’s rugby to the FFR, in the light of Jessy Trémoulière's election as World Rugby’s player of the year.
Serge began with a tribute to Trémoulière:
"I am very happy for her because she is a very talented player who works a lot. It's really amazing to have a French player named best in the world [Jessy is the first French player – man or women – to win such an award]. I am also pleased with the nomination of four tricolour players out of five in the running. It is a recognition of the level of French women's rugby has reached, with this team and its management. They followed the very good results with the Grand Slam with a victory over New Zealand. The French women's rugby team is on the roof of the world in all humility. This award is also a victory for the leaders of the FFR who set up a policy of development and structuring of women's game. We are delighted that the results have followed, it proves that we are on the right path.
"Our players embody the concept of rugby values to perfection. They have a management system that relies on participation, sharing and the desire to be part of the group. Everything is collaborative and shared. Each decision is guided by the need to bring something to the group. "
What has been the effect of the national teams performances on the game in France?
"There is obviously an impact from these sequences of victories. We have seen a 30% increase in the number of registered female players. Media interest is growing. We also have seen more sponsorship interest. We feel that we are mobilizing parts of society that we have never touched before.
“This is a very good sign that triggers a virtuous circle that takes in all rugby. It brings a freshness the to the whole of the game, another way of thinking."
In an increasingly divided society, it sends a strong message about the equality wanted by the FFR between women's and men's rugby?
"There is a will at the heart of the Federation for equal treatment, means, and consideration. It is an work in progress because we have a heavy cultural heritage that goes beyond the rugby. We want to get out of this prehistory and make a place for women, the true pioneers, who built rugby fighting against very harsh prejudices. We want these pioneers and today's players to be recognized as equal to men's rugby. It may be only semantics, but we do not want to hear about ‘rugby’, about the essence of a sport that brings everyone together, and then have over in a corner ‘women’s rugby’. Today we have the same consideration for men's rugby and women's rugby. "
"World Rugby has taken notice of this change, and I speak all the more easily as I chair the Women's Rugby Commission. There is a 25% increase in registered players worldwide. It is a global phenomenon. There is real development begun by World Rugby with the structuring of new tournaments and the setting up of international competitions.
“But it is true that France stands out because twice this year we have had 17,000 people in a stadium and 1.8 million viewers for the match against New Zealand. There is an incredible love for our players who deserve everything that happens to them that has never been seen before anywhere."