Rugby World Cup quarter-final. Les Bleues face the transalpine obstacle

It’s time to step up. The group stage over, the women’s XV of France faces Italy, this Saturday, October 29, in the quarter-finals of the World Cup in Whangarei in New Zealand (TF1, 5:30 a.m.). Favorites of this meeting, the Blues will have to be wary of an opponent in constant progression against whom they have encountered difficulties in recent matches.

After finishing second in Pool C, with two wins over South Africa (40-5) and Fiji (44-0) and a defeat against England (13-7), the French team took fourth place overall at the end of the first phase. A positioning that earned him to meet the Italians, ranked fifth after finishing second in Pool B, behind Canada, according to the formula of the competition (1st against 8th, 2nd against 7th, etc.) During these first weeks competition, the Transalpines beat the United States (22-10) and Japan (21-8) and lost to Canada (22-12).

This is the first time that an Italian team, men and women alike, has reached the quarter-finals of a Rugby World Cup, an event qualified » of history» by the president of the Italian Federation, Marzio Innocenti. Suffice to say that the players of the Squadra Azzurra have nothing to lose and even everything to gain against the French women who aspire to » go to the end « . This year, the two teams have already met three times and, each time, the Italians have given the Blues a hard time. If the Habs won during the Six Nations Tournament (39-6), on a score that does not reflect the match during which they were heckled and awkward, their two following confrontations ended in an unconvincing victory. in Nice (21-0), then a bitter defeat (26-19) in Biella, just before flying to Auckland at the end of September.

« It’s a team that has the ability to produce a lot of play, to be threatening everywhere, which has grown enormously, evolved and taken on a real dimension.“, analyzes David Ortiz, the coach of the Blue in charge of the scrum. And to add:She is also very tactical in her approach, she adapts, with players able to distribute the ball well . A fluidity in the game that the opening half of the Blues, Caroline Drouin, also fears, and which explains the now fifth place in the World Rugby world rankings occupied by Italy, which is hot on the heels of France, fourth. « Collectively, there have been very few rotations for a few years, so the connection between them is quite strong,she explains.It’s really amazing when you see them play: there are a lot of passes after contact, their game is very lively, with the ball moving all the time. Offensively, it’s a very threatening team, the danger is constant, from everywhere. »

The defeat suffered last month will be on everyone’s mind. « We necessarily think about it because when we played the last time against them, we lost… But it’s not so much revenge but rather to show that we have rebuilt ourselves since the three group matches“, underlines the second line Céline Ferer. The proposed game will be one of the keys to the match. « We want to keep this course at the level of the defense (214 tackles against England – editor’s note) and continue to progress on the offensive sector», Specifies the Basque player (57 selections). To achieve this, the Blues will have to be able to put intensity without flinching. « In general, we make a very big start then there is a little hesitation before we succeed in putting on the accelerator,recognizes Caroline Drouin.Against the English, we maintained our level well for eighty minutes; against Fiji, there is also a small hole but we manage to get our hands on the ball and find our game. There, clearly, at this stage of the competition, we cannot afford to have a big hole of air. So we’re going to try to be focused for eighty minutes, to ensure that we make an impression quickly by starting the match strong and then to maintain this rhythm throughout.»

After having rotated the workforce against Fiji, the French coaching staff will line up their standard team this Saturday. Only three changes, two of which were dictated by unavailability, are noteworthy compared to the team which started against England on October 15. « We wanted to put the most competitive team to oppose the game profile of Italy, a playful team, with a lot of dynamism“, says Thomas Darracq, the coach. In the absence of scrum half Laure Sansus, hit in the knee and forfeited for the rest of the competition, Pauline Bourdon will therefore form the hinge alongside Caroline Drouin. The third line Romane Ménager still recovering from a concussion suffered against the English, the young Charlotte Escudero (22 years old, 4 selections) slips to the position of number 8, while the captain Gaëlle Hermet, spared at the start of the tournament, is aligned in the third wing line. Finally, Chloé Jacquet hands over the full-back position to Émilie Boulard, replaced on the left wing by Marine Ménager, author of Les Bleues’ first try during the huge success over Fiji.

Third in the World Cup in Ireland in 2017, the Blues want to lift the trophy this time. In the event of victory, they would be opposed next week to the winner of the match New Zealand – Wales. But there are not thirty-six ways to access it. Céline Ferer (31), for whom this is the last competition, sums up the situation in a sentence full of pragmatism. « There is no room for error: either you win or you go home. »


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