The online home of Women's Rugby

France strengthen pack for England test

France have made just three changes to their squad for their Six Nations game against England at Twickenham on 23rd February. However, two of these changes significantly increase the experience of the pack – an area that France see as crucial to their chances of winning for the first time in the Six Nations since 2005.

Props Christelle Chobet (Lons) and and Hélène Ezanno (Rennes) have nearly 40 caps between them – ten times more than Lenaig Corson and Julie Duval, who they replace. It is a change that was almost certainly planned, in the same way that France had intended to rest Sandrine Agricole until the injury to Aurelie Bailon forced a change to French plans. Having been saved for the game, it is likely that Chobet and Ezanno – and Agricole – will start.

The third change sees Audrey Parra replaced by Julie Billes, the young centre/fly-half from Perpignan who French captain Marie-Alice Yahe has identified as one of the most exciting up-and-coming players. Billes was originally selected for the sevens squad, and took part in a training camp in Gijon last weekend, so the switch to fifteens team is perhaps unexpected. However, she won her first full cap against England in the autumn, having previously been fly-half for the French U20 team that beat England three games to nil last year, including a 50-0 win in Paris. 

Billes selection also gives France an alternative option at fly-half, potentially allowing Jessy Tremouliere to move to back to 15, and Caroline Ladagnous into a more familiar position in the backline. However, after Tremoliere’s performance against Wales it is likely that Billes will start on the bench.

However, French preparations for the game are likely to be disrupted because nearly a third of the squad will be involved in three crucial Top 10 club games, postponed from earlier in the season, including Agricole, Ezanno, Jade Le Pesc, Lucille Godiveau, and Sandra Rabier. Assuming all come through unscathed the team will reassemble in the middle of next week in preparation for this key clash at Twickenham.

A loss for either side would almost cetainly end their hopes of winning a title this season, with both having already sufffered one loss each.

French squad:
AGRICOLE Sandrine (Rennes) , ANDRE Manon (Saint Orens) , BILLES Julie (USAP), CHOBET Christelle (Lons) , DENADAI Marine (Montpellier) , DIALLO Coumba Tombe (Bobigny) , EZANNO Hélène (Rennes) , GODIVEAU Lucille (Rennes) , GRAND Laetitia (Lons) , GUIGLION Elodie (USAP) , KOITA Assa (Bordeaux) , LADAGNOUS Caroline (Lons) , LE PESC Jade (Rennes) , MAYANS Marjorie (Saint Orens) , MIGNOT Gaëlle (Montpellier) , N’DIAYE Safi (Montpellier) , PORTARIES Elodie (Montpellier) , POUBLAN Elodie (Montpellier) , RABIER Sandra (Ovalie Caennaise) ,SALLES Laetitia (La Valette) , TREMOULIERE Jessy (Romagnat) , VERNHET Aurélie (Montpellier) , YAHE Marie Alice (USAP)

France have also announced their squad for the U20 international at Esher on 23rd February (2pm kickoff). 

AURIOL Léna (Saint Orens), BANET Cyrielle (SO Villelonguet), BERTRAND Gladys (Sassenage), BILON Roxane (La Valette), BOUDAUD Camille (Stade Rennais), CABALOU Camille (Tarbes Pyrénées), CLAVE CHASTANG Pia (Limoges), CORRO Charline (Tarbes Pyrénées), DIALLO Aissetou (Maisons-Laffitte), DIVOUX Wendy (USA Perpignan), DUBERTRAND Meryl (Lons), GARNIER Marion (Fonsorbes), GUILLEE Aurélie (Chilly), IMART Camille (Saint Orens), KEREMBELLEC Marina (Stade Bordelais), LAUGAUDIN Kimberley (Montpellier), MARCON Anaïs (Lons), MENANTEAU Marie (Romagnat), MENETRIER Laura (Sassenage), MENGUE NDONG Jennifer (Fonsorbes), PLACINES Chloé (Lons), SUDRES Marine (Fonsorbes), VAZ Marjorie (Romagnat)