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Scrumqueens 2018 Awards: Part 1

We kick off our 2018 end of year awards by taking a look at the best players and coaches in the game. 

Scrumqueens XV Player of the Year 2018.
Gaëlle Hermet (France)
Despite having played rugby since she was a young girl, the French captain's rise over the past year or so has been meteoric. Still just 22, she took over the French captaincy from the iconic hooker Gaelle Mignot, and has been superb both as a leader and as a star back-row, leading her team this season to a 6 Nations title and a first ever win over the Black Ferns. From the get-go in February througout the 6 Nations, right through to the very end of the Autumn tests, she has been the game's best and most consistently brilliant player, with her pace, work off the ball and turnover rate, such that she has fast become a test star. Having not even made the World Cup squad of 2017, it has been a remarkable rise, from selection for the 2017 Autumn tests, to the captaincy and all of this year's success. She has described 2018 as a year that will forever be etched in her memory - and if her progress continues, there will be many more to come. 

Scrumqueens 7s Player of the Year 2018
Michaela Blyde (New Zealand)
Having failed to make the cut for the 2016 Olymnpics (Blyde was a travelling reserve) the switch from prop to wing ignited the career of the hugely talended Blyde, who hasn't looked back since. Interviews with Blyde always see the Black Ferns 7s star circumspect about ther own talent and praiseworthy instead of those around but the reality is that she now joins Portia Woodman as one of the standout global stars of the women's 7s game. She has had a superb 2018 helping the Black Ferns to a Commonwealth Games and World Cup Gold AND she scored her 100th try for her country. Refreshingly she has also not been afraid to use her voice to lament issues with the profile of the game through the media - lambasting broadcasters for their lack of coverage of recent World Series and saying the game needs more respect. The game also needs more players like Blyde - brilliant on and off the field. 
 
Scrumqueens XV Coach of the Year 2018
Annick Hayraud, Olivier Lievremont and Samuel Cherouk (France)
After a standout year the award had to go to France, but they are unusual in that they do not have a head coach. Instead they have a Team Manager, Annick Hayraud, - who tends also to be the spokesperson for the team - and two coaches, Samuel Cherouk for the forwards and Olivier Lievremont for the backs. It would be unfair and inappropriate to break up this team and give the award to anyone in particular, so it goes jointly to all three. They came together following the election of Bernard Laporte as FFR President in 2017 and really found their feet in 2018. Selecting a 21-year old as captain might have been seen as a risk at the start of the year, but it was just the first of a series of decisions and initiatives that proved at times visionary. Not only did they win their fifth Grand Slam, they beat champions New Zealand for the first time in one of the greatest women's test matches ever. In addition four of their charges were nominated for World Rugby's Player of the Year, with Jessy Tremouliere becoming the first French player to win the award, and attracted record breaking crowds to their games in the process. It has been a wonderful year - a "Grand Cru" to quote the FFR's own review of the season - that has lifted French women's rugby to unprecedented heights in a country that seems to love women's rugby more than any other.
 
Scrumqueens 7s Coach of the Year 2018
David Courteix  (France)
In a year of such dominance for the New Zealand 7s team, it feels almost automatic to give this award to a Kiwi coach, however after years of hard work and planning, the French coach David Courteix has seen so much of his project bearing fruit and so he is our pick this year. And it is very much his personal project - Courteix has been an international 7s coach for longer than anyone else in the Series having become France's women's 7s coach in 2010, so all of the credit of the their recent success is down to him. He has built the team and modelled its philosophy from the ground up in a country with little 7s tradition, until recently. It maybe forgotten now, but the FFR initially had little interest in the World Series and only attempted to qualify for the 2016 Olympics at the last possible moment. Even today France are only semi-pro. As a resuilt the steady improvement has been impressive. A 6th place finish in the World Series in 2015 became 5th in 2016 and the 3rd in 2018. Courteix's senior French team also reached the World Cup Final in 2018 while his next generation won the World Student Championship and reached the final of the Youth Olympics. And its all thanks to the indefatigable work of David Courteix.