'French flair is in our DNA'

in Parma, France U20 team are determined to showcase their winning ways in the inaugural edition of the Women's Summer Series. 

With a stunning 57-12 victory over Wales in their opening game, the French set the tone and confirmed their status as standard-bearers for the new competition. 

“I don't know if we're the favourites, but we're definitely the team to beat,” said head coach Caroline Suné. “The Italians, the Welsh, the Scots and the English are all saying that. We have to play that role and it's not easy, but the girls showed the way in this first game.” 

France came out firing from the kick-off, scoring three tries in the first 11 minutes. The charge continued into the half-time break and the girls in blue went into the changing rooms with a commanding 28-7 lead. 

The second half was a continuation of their dominance, as Les Bleuettes proved formidable with every attack into the Welsh half, limiting their opponents to just two late tries, one at the end of each period. 

Despite the massive scoreline, the match wasn't all smooth sailing. There were plenty of turnovers and set-piece challenges, both at lineout and scrum, but the French team's determination and skill shone through. 

A lack of precision was also identified as a weak spot. “We were so intent on doing things quickly and well that we made mistakes we're not used to making. Once again, it was the first game, the stakes, the heat, the excitement,” admitted Suné. 

“We didn't have much time and we made some decisions. We wanted to play an ambitious, fast-paced game. We're trying to cultivate a French flair. It showed, although there was a lot of waste. 

“But we have to take the initiative and read the game. We have to be intelligent players. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. In any case, we have to make the ball come alive with our strengths. They are bigger and stronger than us. We've got to play to our strengths. I've tried to pick players with that profile. It's our DNA and we need to nurture it.” 

There was also a lack of freshness among the players selected. Some of them had not played at a high level since the Elite 1 Championship finals almost a month and a half ago. They had to get back into the rhythm of things, deal with the capricious weather conditions - a captain's run in the rain at 15°C followed by a match in the sun and heat - and overcome logistical problems such as around 15 bags going missing before arriving at their destination the day before the match. 

“When you add it all up, we got off to the best possible start,” smiled the manager. 

“The girls know what's at stake, they know everyone's watching them. They know they can make history because it's their first time. It could also be the start of a future Six Nations tournament for the U20s, depending on the quality of the game. But also, for them as players to move on to XV or Sevens. They know what's at stake.” 

Among the players who took to the field on the opening day, two stood out: SCUF centre Hawa Tounkara and FC Grenoble back row Taina Maka. 

“These are two players who are unknown to the general public,” said Suné. “Hawa is an exceptional, multi-talented utility player. She's a ray of sunshine, always smiling. She was happy to take on the role of centre, a position she's not used to because she started out as a wing. Because of the quality of the players, we wanted to use all our best talents and she was one of them. She has shone and will continue to do so. 

“As for Taina, she's more of a back-row, a number 8, but we think she could be a very good second row player given her power. We'll probably see her in a different position in the next game. She's a player to watch. Taina doesn't realise the potential she has, and I hope this tournament will help her realise that. She has a lot of physical potential. I think she's a player who will come out strong and keep up the pace over the three matches.” 

The next two matches will come quickly, with Scotland on 9 July and England five days later. The goal remains the same and is firmly in the minds of all the players: to make history by becoming the first team to dominate the Women's Summer Series.

“They have to stay humble and keep their feet on the ground. The English say 'we respect everyone, but we fear no one'. And to respect everyone, you have to score the right points,” warned Suné.