Women’s Three to Watch: France

France Women enjoyed a landmark 2018 with a Six Nations Grand Slam and a first-ever win over New Zealand, and will be looking to build on that in 2019.

France Women enjoyed a landmark 2018 with a Six Nations Grand Slam and a first-ever win over New Zealand, and will be looking to build on that in 2019.

Les Bleues have not successfully defended a Six Nations crown since 2005 and will have their work cut out this year with notably a trip to Doncaster to take on England on the agenda in Round Two.

But following so much success in 2018, and with a wealth of talent coming through, a new year offers the chance for Les Bleues to back up the previous campaign.

With that in mind, we have picked out three players who could play a leading role in that success.

Caroline Drouin

Last year’s Top 8 Player of the Season, the versatile Caroline Drouin is one of the players who pulls the strings for Les Bleues after a breakthrough campaign.

Still only 22, Drouin’s passing from fly-half is a large part of how dangerous they can be when playing wide and in November, she showed that she can do more than simply run the show from No.10.

Switched to the centres after an early injury, she continued to fulfil the playmaking role, alongside Pauline Bourdon.

An equally accomplished Sevens player, Drouin is quickly establishing herself as integral to the way France are trying to play with the crispness of her distribution as well as her kicking game.

If Jessy Trémoulière is not yet back from injury, her goal-kicking could also be vital to France’s chances.

Cyrielle Banet

Only Jessy Trémoulière and Ellie Kildunne managed more than Cyrielle Banet’s four tries in last year’s Championship and the winger remains one of France’s most potent threats out wide.

From a rugby family – her grandad, dad, uncle, cousin and aunt all played – Banet initially made her name when playing for Villelonguet before switching to Montpellier.

She got a chance with France 7s before making her XVs debut in 2017 and has gone from strength to strength.

Her combination with Caroline Boujard has given Les Bleues two top-class operators out wide, albeit with Boujard able to fill in at full-back when required.

And at just 24-years-old, Banet still has plenty of time to build on what has already been a fine start to her career.

Romane Ménager

It’s easy to forget that Romane Ménager is still only 22, such has been her impact at the top level already.

One of the standout performers at the 2017 World Cup, the back-rower followed that up by helping France to Grand Slam glory and then victory over New Zealand.

It was against the Black Ferns that she really stood out, scoring one brilliant individual try from inside her own half.

Ménager has slotted in at No.8 since Safi N’Diaye’s switch to the second row, and her combination of pace and power makes her a very dangerous prospect.

Alongside skipper Gaëlle Hermet, she makes the French back row one of the more mobile groups in the Championship with the pace to play in the backline – just like her twin sister Marine.