France star Sansus seizes the moment in TikTok Women's Six Nations

·4-min read
Sansus was nominated for the TikTok Player of the Championship award
Sansus was nominated for the TikTok Player of the Championship award

The biggest debate around French women’s rugby in recent seasons has been over who should start at scrum-half between Laure Sansus and Pauline Bourdon, writes Paul Eddison.

So when the latter was ruled out of the TikTok Women’s Six Nations through injury, it created an opportunity for Sansus, while also putting a lot of responsibility on her shoulders.

She lived up to the challenge and more, finishing the competition as the top try-scorer, with six, while adding as many try assists, also the most of any player.

Not only that, Sansus became the focal point around which the French game plan revolved. Her kicking game allowed them to play a territorial style, while the threat she posed around the breakdown opened up space for others.

It was no surprise to see her nominated for the TikTok Player of the Championship, such was her influence, even if France had to settle for second place after a 24-12 loss in Round 5 to England.

That defeat came with some initial regrets, particularly because of a long spell in the England 22 shortly before half-time during which France were unable to score and get back into the game.

With a few days to reflect on the game however, Sansus is more philosophical.

She explained: “There’s disappointment, of course. It was a final but when you take a step back and look at the game, you realise that at the moment they are a level above us. So it takes away some of the frustration, we have to admit that at the moment they are better than us so there are fewer regrets.

“What they have that we don’t is that they score with every opportunity they get. They are able to hit you where it hurts, we are a bit softer and can’t always take our chances. We talk a lot about English pragmatism, there we saw it up close. It’s an area that we need to work on to improve.

“We have to improve in terms of discipline and to take inspiration from them and how they play. As soon as they get into the 22, they score. We were able to put them under pressure but were not always able to score, that’s the difference at the moment.”

France had made a dream start in Bayonne, Sansus using the fact that England were marking her closely to put Romane Ménager in for the opening try with a beautiful delayed pass after three minutes.

From there though, England were able to use their rolling maul to great effect, with Sarah Bern scoring two of their three tries as they opened up a lead they never looked like relinquishing.

That made it ten wins in a row against Les Bleues and where France had come close against England a year ago, this felt like a more convincing defeat.

Sansus admitted that the team had not quite hit their straps in 2022 so far, something she is determined to put right ahead of the World Cup in New Zealand later this year.

She added: “In terms of the Six Nations overall, from a results perspective, we did the job. We got the wins and the bonus points, both at home and on the road. But we were not as comfortable as last year, we were not able to set up as we would like.

“We won every game thanks to our kicking game and our defence but it’s true that we were missing something compared to last year. We have got to find that structure before the World Cup.

“The World Cup is a new challenge. It would be my first. We are fortunate to have England in our group, and we might meet them again in the knockout stages. But it would be a mistake to build our World Cup preparation around England.

“It’s not just England, there are at least three games to play plus the knockouts if we get there so we have to focus on ourselves.”

The kicking game could be a key part of the French game plan, with England and France well out in front of their rivals in that area of the game.

Sansus’ box-kicking was one of France’s biggest strengths during the TikTok Women’s Six Nations, while at club level she has increased her repertoire in that department by spending time at full-back, with Bourdon having joined Toulouse last summer.

Despite the fact she is already established as one of the best in the game, the 27-year-old has no intention of resting on her laurels.

She added: “I think today the kicking game is going to be a very important weapon at the World Cup, so it’s an area that I want to improve. I also need to progress on my distribution and managing the game during our good moments and bad.

“I need to be more pragmatic in opposition territory to make sure we score when we get the chance. I need to offer more to the team so that we can score more easily.”

The TikTok Women’s Six Nations is more accessible than ever before. To find out how you can watch the Women’s Championship visit: womens.sixnationsrugby.com/tv/

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