Feleu sisters 1
Two Polynesian-Burgundy sisters, who play together at club level, could well line up together for the first time in a Test match this year.

Manaé, the elder, has been confirmed as captain of the French women's team by coaching duo Gaëlle Mignot and David Ortiz. After leading France to a disappointing WXV 1 in New Zealand last autumn, Manaé Feleu (24, 12 caps) has been reappointed with the captain's armband for what will be the third Guinness Women's Six Nations of her young career (one cap as a replacement in 2022, four appearances in 2023).

Her fluency in English may well have played a part in the final decision, as her predecessors Gaëlle Hermet and Audrey Forlani weren't necessarily comfortable in the language of Shakespeare.

Last year, Teani, Manaé's younger sister by two years, was in the 32-player squad but did not play. That could all change with her inclusion in this year's Championship squad.

Honing skills in New Zealand

Born in Mâcon, Burgundy, the two sisters grew up on the other side of the world, on the island of Futuna in French Polynesia. At the time of the move, Manaé was two years old and Teani just three weeks old. It was there that they discovered dance, but their passion for rugby was to prove stronger as they followed their father's lessons on the field.

Manaé was 11 years old, Teani seven. "When I was little, rugby was what my father did," recalls Teani. "At first I wasn't too keen on the sport. I used to go with my father because I did other sports on the side: dance and karate.

"But then one day I tried it out and it just clicked. I was free to express myself however I wanted to in rugby. I had more fun. I let off more steam. As soon as I started rugby, I knew it was the sport I wanted to do. I was in it to have fun.”

In the Feleu family, sport is a religion. The parents are sports teachers, the four children play sport and the traditional rite of passage seems to be to go and perfect their skills in the land of rugby, New Zealand.

At least that's where Niue, the older brother, went to high school, then Manaé and finally Teani when she was 14. "Family is very important to us. We've always been close, and rugby has given me a lot of that family spirit," says Teani.

Manaé: Natural born leader

When they returned to France, Manaé joined the Amazones in Grenoble and quickly became one of the club's leaders. "There are five or six of us who are identified as leaders," she says. "It's more a group of leaders than a team captain. We can support each other and share the pressure. In the France squad at the moment, I think that's more or less what the coaches are looking to develop: a group of leaders so they can rely on several people at any one time, instead of just one."

That's exactly what Gaëlle Mignot says when asked about captaincy. "We're mainly focused on building a group of leaders made up of several players who can play important roles in the team. We've prioritised a few things. We're now in the second phase of the project. We need to build a group of leaders. We've started to put that in place," she explains.

Teani arrived a little later in Grenoble, where she was initially enrolled in sports studies. "After my final year, I went on holiday to France for two months and took part in a Top 100 competition, and that's when I was spotted," she says.

Teani: A dream to play for France

Teani briefly joined the French rugby 7s team for a World Series tournament and took part in several training sessions with her older sister in the French women's squad. Although she was included in the squad for the Guinness Women's Six Nations 2023, she was not called on to play. This year seems to be the right opportunity for the two sisters, as well as playing together at club level, to meet up on the same international stage.

"We've always wanted to play together, but we've never been able to do that because we weren't in the same age category," says Teani. "We know each other well, we know how each other plays, so it's easy to anticipate what one or the other is going to do. We like it."

While her sister already has 12 caps for France, Teani is wisely waiting her turn and doing everything she can to get there. A few years ago, Teani said: "All the girls in the French team are role models for me. With the French team, you're at the top of your game, it's a dream come true."

Now she is just weeks away from realising that dream in the Guinness Women's Six Nations.

(Image credits: FFR)