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Les Bleuettes expect tough crunch vs England after 74-0 win in April

France U20 féminines à Parme. Photo : France Rugby

“A Crunch is always a special experience,” says Kelly Arbey, France’s winger/full-back. She knows this well, as the last Crunch she experienced with the women’s U20s was in Rouen on April 20th.

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On that day, Les Bleuettes dominated the Roses 74-0, with Arbey scoring a hat-trick.

It was not only France’s biggest win in this fixture but also the worst defeat ever suffered by an English women’s team.

The next meeting between France and England will be in Parma on Sunday, July 14th, marking the conclusion of the inaugural Six Nations Women’s Summer Series.

“This Crunch will be nothing like the first one,” warns France’s number eight, Marie Morland. “Their team has changed. We’re not expecting the same game at all. We’re not going to refer to the previous game because the context and the teams are different.

“These girls are in a fierce state of mind, always together, always giving their best. We can’t afford not to be at our highest level.”

“The first team we played was very strong physically,” comments Kelly Arbey (19, two caps). “At times, we were even a little surprised by their play, whether in the scrum or lineout. The game was often challenging.

“These are girls who are hard to break down, who look for impact. We’ll have to work hard and manage them well. There is a lot at stake for us, but also for them.”

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Captain Zoé Jean will be on hand to keep her team’s feet on the ground should they expect an easy game.

“For me, the scoreline in Rouen doesn’t really reflect what happened on the pitch,” she admits. “We won by a large margin, but it was a very tough, hard-fought game with a lot of contact. We’re up against some tough opposition, and they’re going to come at us really hard.

“It’s a blow to the ego to lose like that, and we’ll have to be very wary of them.”

“You could see that as soon as England felt they were in danger, they pushed forward and moved quickly,” adds coach Caroline Suné.

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Despite comfortable wins over Wales (57-12) and Scotland (67-10), France feels that the road to victory was a chaotic one.

“The first 20 minutes against Scotland were a bit complicated in a game where we were slightly dominated at the start because we were taken by surprise,” observes Arbey. “We weren’t ready to play in that kind of weather, maybe not ready to play against a team that played a bit like us, where they played with the ball a lot, and we weren’t used to that style of play.

“Usually, these girls are better in midfield and come out to fight. But here, we had a team that played with a lot of possession and speed, and we weren’t prepared for that.”

Nevertheless, France’s U20 women remain as motivated as ever. And while they won’t be expecting the fireworks of Rouen on Sunday, they’ll be happy with a win at the end of this inaugural edition of the Women’s Summer Series.

“We are desperate for this win, to be the first ever. That’s what the coaches are telling us, and that’s what we’re thinking about. It’s important to show today that we are girls and that women’s rugby is moving forward, that we are capable of winning big and playing big games,” insists Arbey.

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finn 6 hours ago
Ireland and South Africa share the same player development dilemma

What a difference 9 months makes! Last autumn everyone was talking about how important versatile bench players were to SA’s WC win, now we’re back to only wanting specialists? The timing of this turn is pretty odd when you consider that some of the best players on the pitch in the SA/Ireland match were Osbourne (a centre playing out of position at 15), Feinberg-Mngomezulu (a fly-half/centre playing out of position at 15), and Frawley (a utility back). Having specialists across the backline is great, but its not always necessary. Personally I think Frawley is unlikely to displace Crowley as first choice 10, but his ability to play 12 and 15 means he’s pretty much guaranteed to hold down a spot on the bench, and should get a decent amount of minutes either at the end of games or starting when there are injuries. I think Willemse is in a similar boat. Feinberg-Mngomezulu possibly could become a regular starter at 10 for the Springboks, but he might not, given he’d have to displace Libbok and Pollard. I think its best not to put all your eggs in one basket - Osbourne played so well at the weekend that he will hopefully be trusted with the 15 shirt for the autumn at least, but if things hadn’t gone well for him he could have bided his time until an opportunity opened up at centre. Similarly Feinberg-Mngomezulu is likely to get a few opportunities at 15 in the coming months due to le Roux’s age and Willemse’s injury, but given SA don’t have a single centre aged under 30 its likely that opportunities could also open up at 12 if he keeps playing there for Stormers. None of this will discount him from being given gametime at 10 - in the last RWC cycle Rassie gave a start at 10 to Frans Steyn, and even gave de Klerk minutes there off the bench - but it will give him far more opportunities for first team rugby.

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