Black Ferns find healthy challenge from France Women's XV
TOULON, FRANCE - NOVEMBER 09: Les Elder of New Zealand attacks during the match between France Women and The New Zealand Black Ferns at Stade Mayol on November 9, 2018 in Toulon, France. (Photo by Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images)

In reviewing the World Champion Black Ferns rugby teams’ last match scorelines, you would find a ‘high range’. Scores of 40 or more are common, so when the France Women’s XV held them to a 0-14 score in Toulon, some fans wondered what had occurred?

In reality, it is simply called competition. France are in fact the current Women’s Six Nations title holders. So their guest’s modest scoreline reflected how the hosts played to their capacity. And even in defeat, they would feel a sense of pride, in holding the leading team in women’s rugby, to less than 20 points.

To put it in context, in recent International tests, the Black Ferns have scored 6-67 [United States, in Chicago] and 45-17 [v Australia, at Eden Park] and there have been more results with a 20 points advantage for this side to support their current status.

Combating that trend, France were able to withstand all of the New Zealand teams pressure until the 53rd minute. Then, Eloise Blackwell crashed over the line, after the women were held up numerous times by the smothering France Women’s XV defence. Then five minutes later, Renee Wickliffe scored in the corner to double the scoreline. To no surprise, the masterboot of Kendra Cocksedge converted both tries.

Even though they had a modicum of success by the end of the third quarter, France resisted allowing the visitors their usual late flurry of scoring.

A respectful outcome, that makes for an appetizing return match next week. [More success than the men’s team, with a match review below page of FRAvRSA].

Black Ferns 14 (- Tries: Eloise Blackwell, Renee Wickliffe; Conversions: Kendra Cocksedge (2)

France 0

As much credit in this analysis needs to go to New Zealand, for maintaining a clean sheet. Many attempts were made by France, to kick for territory, and combat the Black Ferns in their own half. The territorial play earned dividends, yet it did not return in points. Kudos to New Zealand defence for holding their line in tact.

So when these two sides play the return fixture in Grenoble this Saturday, France Women’s XV must bring as much effort, and some better answers to the visitor’s defence than last weekend.

Black Ferns find healthy challenge from France Women’s XV

While tough matches have been fewer for the Black Ferns, France have experienced many of them in recent times – their record against the home nations would have been a factor in their physicality. It would have been used as the backbone, of the strategy to play New Zealand in the middle of the park.

Modern tackle/ruck techniques were effective tools, as much as good research, and analysis, that will have driven the on-field calls to use set-piece …..as well as adapting to the drizzle that continued throughout this match-up.

The conditions were difficult, yet every member of the New Zealand team will have experienced similar greasy surfaces back home, so no excuses can be made. It appears that the Kiwi girls natural game was smothered, and it took the side a long time to adapt.

Head coach and senior players will examine the game, decision making and look to improve by Saturday.

New Zealand retain unbeaten record over France Women’s XV

The fifth time these two nations have met, and even while France did a superb job in the opening half in an attempt to correct that record, they could not sustain that effort for the entire match. Against any New Zealand rugby team, it takes two full halves of commitment, to better the world champion Black Ferns team.

An opportunity exists this weekend to make history, in the second test match of the International series. It is one of the limited chances which each team has, although France enjoy a guaranteed five quality matches each Six Nations season.

Unfortunately, the World Champions will again only play that number ‘in total’ across 2018. Not nearly enough games for a side that are now closer to being fulltime professionals. And not nearly enough competition to help them to boost the profile of the women’s sport.

If this weekend brings the same challenge, then at least in terms of the opposition quality, then it will be of benefit – rather than simply more exhibition games. Games against France, and possibly more (if able to be secured) against sides like England, Ireland or Wales, will reward fans and stakeholders in many ways more than past teams could have dreamed of.

The game is on the rise, so administrators in France and New Zealand have a responsibility to schedule more of these quality fixtures, to benefit women’s sport in general.

France v New Zealand – Saturday, November 18. Stade des Alpes, Grenoble

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The France men’s team also had to settle with a loss last weekend. In a close contest at Stade de France in Paris, it was a game where each side were not at 100%. The error ridden occasion only allowed for limited attack – and it took South Africa right into the 83rd minute, before they broke the hearts of Les Bleus fans.

It was left for replacement hooker Mbongeni Mbonami, to save the Springboks from a pair of losses, on their end of year tour. The try ended the match at a time where French fans had almost resolved themselves to victory – yet in the International game; and with the laws that mean a game cannot end on a penalty, South Africa rode their luck and from the breakdown, Mbonami sent fans home unhappy.

South Africa’s hooker Bongi Mbonambi (L) celebrates after scoring a try during the test match between France and South Africa at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, on November 10, 2018. (Photo credit ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP/Getty Images)

Jacque Brunel may find the result, not to his liking. The recently appointed head coach has failed to fully revive Les Bleus, and the November Internationals were an opportunity to correct issues for the home team. Even with several tries scored, not many commentators would feel that the national team are 100% on the right track.

Rassie Erasmus may not be as abject, knowing that a win makes his role a little safer…yet only just a little. Selections and attitude are important, and over the whole match, the attitude waivered and the selections might not have all been ‘on the mark’. And a win can do much for a team who are wishing to improve, even while they must also judge the first-pick XV against players who are wishing to earn more caps.

Both teams will need to make some changes, and as each looks to generate fan support. Support that is required for both; with France still needing to be confident heading into the 2019 Six Nations, and South Africa needing their players to stay motivated until July [for the 2019 Rugby Championship].

This upcoming weekend, both sides need to put on a display that has their fans entertained. Only the squads selected can fulfill that…..and each group needs to win well.

France v Argentina – Sat Nov 17. Stade Pierre-Mauroy, Villeneuve-D’Ascq

Scotland v South Africa – Sat Nov 17. Murrayfield, Edinburgh

 

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