Sisters who grew up on tiny Pacific island aiming to deliver France’s first Grand Slam since 2018

Manae Feleu – Sisters who grew up on tiny Pacific island aiming to deliver France's first Grand Slam since 2018

International rugby has had its fair share of siblings. The All Blacks have the Barrett brothers, England had the Vunipolas, and the Scotland-born Millar-Mills sisters even faced off against one another when Harriet wore the red rose and Bridget pulled on the thistle in 2013.

France, the Red Roses’ opponents for the Women’s Six Nations Grand Slam showdown in Bordeaux on Saturday, are no different.

When 21-year-old Teani Feleu came off the bench against Italy in round three to make her Test debut, she joined her older sister and France captain Manae (24) to become the second pair of siblings to have played for Les Bleues this tournament. They joined twins Romane and Marine Menager, the latter of whom was injured against Italy and is a doubt to face England. A round later, Teani and Manae lined up to start their first international together, against Wales.

Their path to the French national team has been far from ordinary, however. Although they were born in Macon, just north of Lyon in Burgundy, they spent most of their childhood in the South Pacific on the tiny French volcanic island of Futuna. It was there that their father introduced the sisters to rugby, before they moved to New Zealand as teenagers to hone their skills and learn English.

“We were so lucky to have been able to do that. I learned how to be self-sufficient there [in New Zealand] at a very young age. Rugby is a religion there,” Manae told the French Rugby website. With their older brother Niue having gone on to play for Stade Dijonnais in Nationale 2, the fourth tier of French rugby, rugby clearly runs in Feleu blood.

Teani and Manae have played their club rugby for the same team, the superbly named FC Grenoble Amazones, since 2020 and have a bond that Teani believes will soon bear fruit on the 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. 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,” she told the Six Nations website.

While the Menager twins, who play for Montpellier, and Manae Feleu play in the same positions for club and country, Teani has done things a little differently. For Grenoble she typically plays at outside centre, but France co-coaches Gaelle Mignot and David Ortiz have so far deployed her at No 8.

Teani’s break down a narrow blindside off the back of a scrum on halfway 30 minutes into the Wales game to set up Romane Menager’s try, smashing through blindside flanker Alisha Butchers in the process, justified the decision.

Manae was one of the first to congratulate her on that fantastic try assist. And on the other side of half-time when Manae scored her first try for France, it was Teani who made sure to pat her sister on the head amid the celebrations.

Teani grew up trying dance and karate before rugby “clicked”; she says it allows her “to let off more steam”. While she is hoping to earn her third cap against England on Saturday, her sister is playing in her third Six Nations. It is also her first as captain and she is focused on helping France secure their first “Grand Chelem” since 2018.

“We need to get back to work for next week,” Manae said after the 40-0 win over Wales. “We wanted to show the other teams that we’re here. We want to have the Grand Slam this year. We’re really excited for next weekend, we can’t wait.”