History of the French team, evolution of women’s rugby… EXCLUSIVE Interview Quinze Mondial with Lénaïg Corson (part 2/3)

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We have the chance to talk at length with the former player of the XV of France Lénaïg Corson. Throughout this interview, the French returned with us on her recent news with the Wasps club, but also on her plans for the future, linked both to sport and to another area that is dear to her: Environmental Protection. We also talked about the career of the French women’s team during the last World Cup, and the evolution of women’s rugby, in France as elsewhere.

In this second part of the interview, Lénaïg Corson discusses with us the course of the women’s XV of France during the last World Cup in New Zealand. We also discussed the evolution of the place of women’s rugby, whether it is the progress already made or the efforts that are still to be made…

The World Cup in New Zealand? “Beautiful emotions for everyone”

Lenaig Corson

Lénaïg, you mentioned the World Cup which was very popular in England. Let’s talk about this World Cup and more precisely about the course of the France team. A bronze medal is rather a success in this competition. You who have been at the heart of the team for 10 years, what did you think of the performance of Les Bleues in New Zealand?

At the beginning, very few of us thought that France was going to do this course. Especially after seeing the preparation matches against Italy which had been very alarming. Losing against Italy who are supposed to be much weaker than us was worrying. The content had been very rough, we felt that it was a game that was not French and that no one knew how to play rugby anymore when we knew the quality of the players on the ground.

The team also experienced a lot of frustration with all the changes made very shortly before the World Cup, the staff changes in particular and many players put aside. All this must have fueled frustration but also disagreements with the staff. And suddenly, the players gave the impression of having forgotten the objective of this gathering.

Upon arrival in New Zealand, things had to change: the players had to start seeing things differently. Then there was this second group match against England. We expected to see the English, the big favourites, walk on the French and finally, by being solid on their strengths, the defense in particular, they put them to harm. And suddenly, it could have been a trigger for the group. On the semi-final, I did not recognize them. As much on defense, we knew their strength. But even in attack, they let go.

It was beautiful emotions for everyone. And that could only increase the enthusiasm for women’s rugby, despite the schedules. For 2025, we hope for a France-England final!

As you said, this France team will perhaps arouse more interest in women’s rugby, just like the France Sevens team. Do you still pretend that things are going in the right direction?

Of course ! And the French players can congratulate themselves because they bring a lot of medals to France. Because even when things went less well for the boys, the girls were still there. We tend to forget that the French women’s team has always been consistent, that it has won medals: the silver medal at the Olympic Games for France 7, the silver medal for the World Cup in 2018, this last bronze medal…

France remains a strong nation for women’s rugby, which is progressing well. It therefore arouses interest for the team, but also for the practice of rugby since there are more and more licensed players. (+22.12% between before and after the Covid-19 pandemic, editor’s note). And it’s huge.

“Pendant all my career, I had a life beside rugby. It’s compatible.”

Lenaig Corson

Lénaïg Corson in 2020, with the XV of FrancePhoto credit – Icon Sport

If things are progressing in the right direction, what efforts still need to be made? In France or abroad for that matter…

Among the four semi-finalists of the last World Cup, there is a development of professional contracts for the players. In Canada, it is still developing. But other nations with lower rankings than France are also starting to develop this system of pro contracts. We finally put on the girls and we give them more means to be more successful, in particular financially, which also ensures financial stability. It’s still low wages, but it’s a start.

I was one of the first contracted players in France. We were at 1000 euros per month and the salary conditions have since evolved. But in the future, if women’s rugby tends to become more professional at world level, the results will only be more interesting.

In France, we must now also focus on the Elite championship. Because, even today, players still have to choose between their sport and a professional career. And it’s terrible to hear that.

If the choice does not arise in men’s rugby, we would perhaps like it not to arise in women’s rugby either…

Yes, but afterwards I also think that it is interesting to keep this double project of a sporting career coupled with a professional life. This double project, on the whole I think. And we have to keep it because there is a drift in professional sport, it makes players dependent solely on their sports career. And in case of a big injury, depression or whatever, it creates big difficulties.

Me, during all my career, I had a life beside rugby. It’s compatible, even if you need compliant employers. This is why I am also trying, today, to highlight what we athletes can bring to the workplace. We are people who work very hard to achieve our goals, we demonstrate self-sacrifice, we learn to manage failures, we have to manage pressure… These are essential qualities in the professional world. So we can be assets for companies, beyond our simple image.

to summarize

We have the chance to talk at length with the former player of the XV of France Lénaïg Corson. Life in England, situation at Wasps, evolution of women’s rugby, environment in sport… the Frenchwoman shared her vision on many subjects. To be found exclusively on Quinze Mondial.

Helen Brewer

MenLife: the network for everyday men

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