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'Going to help grow women’s rugby': Feleu on ground-breaking Black Ferns win

By Jamie Wall
Manaé Feleu #4 of France during team warm up before the Ireland V France, Women's Six Nations Rugby match at Musgrave Park on April 1st, 2023, in Cork, Ireland. (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)

France have started their WXV campaign with an historic win over the Black Ferns, their first on New Zealand soil. The final whistle of the pulsating 18-17 result evoked a feeling captain Manaé Feleu described as “amazing”.

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23-year-old Feleu, who spent several years at secondary school in New Zealand, compared the emotion to winning a World Cup.

“It kinda did,” she told media after the match at Sky Stadium in Wellington.

“The Black Ferns are a side that we have kinda mystified, playing the Black Ferns or All Blacks is the best that you can get. New Zealand rugby is the best rugby in the world. You pretty much invented rugby, you’re on the top. So playing you guys and being able to get that win on your soil is amazing for us and we’re really grateful for that.”

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Maia Roos is upbeat despite the Black Ferns WXV loss

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Maia Roos is upbeat despite the Black Ferns WXV loss

Black Ferns co-captain Kennedy Simon admitted that her side were “gutted”.

“France are a classy side. We were our own worst enemies tonight, but I think the girls really stepped up in that red card moment. I think we’ll just rally together and capatilise on the opportunities we get in the coming weeks.

“I think it just shows that the northern hemisphere teams need to come here, often. They’re a good side. We’re going to grow from this, we’ve been in camp for two weeks and I’m really proud of the progress we’ve made. We’ll learn from this.”

French co-coach David Ortiz echoed the thoughts of his skipper, saying that his French side was in no doubt about the challenge that was going to face them.

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“Clearly we came for a high level game and that’s exactly what we got,” he said.

“This will help us grow, playing the Black Ferns in New Zealand is a privilege, it’s an important stepping stone and we are very proud and very happy about it.”

His counterpart Gaëlle Mignot was proud of how the side managed to harness some unique Gallic flair to score two memorable but ultimately crucial tries.”

“We do have a strong defence, it’s something we work on a lot,” she said.

“But we also wanted to attack them, force them into errors and we did that really well. It led to the first try with that amazing intercept. The effort was amazing, we wanted to keep the ball alive and that’s exactly what we did.”

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For Feleu, the accomplishment of being role models to a wider audience at the WXV 1 tournament was just as big as the victory.

“I’m just really grateful to be part of this event. It was a big game, we knew it was going to be really hard for 80 minutes. So, I’m just really proud of the girls, and I’m proud for the Black Ferns side as well. I think what we did today is just going to help grow women’s rugby, and this tournament as a whole is going to help do that. I’m just grateful to be a part of that.”

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