So far, the plan is going off without a hitch. After four expected (and improved) victories, the XV of France will play the “final” of the Six Nations Tournament on Saturday in Bayonne, in a boiling Jean-Dauger stadium. The strength given by the Basque public will not be too much to bend the impressive English, who remain on 22 successes in a row, and on nine games won in a row against the players of Annick Hayraud.
Impossible mission ? No, according to Caroline Boujard. The winger with 45 caps made his big comeback Friday in Wales (5-33), two months after a rupture of the internal ligament of the right knee which delayed his plan to become a professional firefighter, but did not alter his efficiency. For her 29th match in the Tournament, the quadruple champion of France with Montpellier planted her 14th try.
According to the 28-year-old Francilienne, trained in Massy, the Tricolores have all the weapons to surprise the best team on the planet, a few months before the World Cup in New Zealand (from October 8 to November 12, 2022).
Did you mention the game against England when you returned to the locker room on Friday evening in Cardiff?
Yes. We talked about the fact that we were opening the way to a final and the Grand Slam. Immediately after the match, it was agreed that we had to switch to England and that the recovery began.
You remain on a very negative series against the English. What makes you think that can change on Saturday in Bayonne?
You just have to look at the last nine confrontations. We lose by nothing every time. The last meeting was in Lille (April 30, 2021). There is a power cut in the 60th minute when we are in the process of tipping the match (the Blues were trailing 15-17). And the English do not want to resume the match afterwards. Their coach does not want it. While I think the victory was at the end of the 20 minutes that remained to be played.
This England team is really very, very strong, especially physically, but we are not inferior to them. We have so many qualities. We can beat them like we could have done the last nine times.
On a personal level, how was your return to the France team?
Great. I was very happy to find the group, the girlfriends. It had been quite a while since we had seen each other. I had resumed training for several weeks but the very high level is different. I really had very good feelings, it was great.
You scored the second of five French tries in Cardiff. Are statistics important to you?
No, not particularly. If we win and I don’t score a try, it doesn’t matter. If I have to make three assists, that’s totally fine with me.
Before Friday, you had not played in Blue since the first test won against New Zealand on November 13 (38-13)…
During the first test, I was out of concussion. Before the second (new success, 29-7), I had asked the staff to release me to take the written exams for the professional firefighter competition.
It is rather rare as a request in high-level sport.
Yes. I didn’t want to ask for a pass, I wanted to do it in the rules. I wanted to take the exam like a normal person. So yes, I didn’t play the second game against the Blacks but it’s very important to prepare for the future. And then, firefighter, it’s my second passion, since childhood.
How are the competitions going?
There are three stages: writing, sport and then speaking. We were 1,200 in Toulouse for the writing, which I managed to validate. We went to 350. Unfortunately the sports event was on March 10, 20 days after my injury. I still couldn’t put my foot down. So I have to start from scratch. I hope to do it again next year if there is a national competition.
How did you plan to manage your schedule, between rugby and firefighting?
I had started discussing it with officials from the Hérault department. Unfortunately, the question no longer arises today. But, while waiting to retake the competition, I keep my volunteer firefighter status that I have had since March 2021, in Montpellier. This allows me to take my guard when I want and stay in that world. I try to ask every Friday.
It’s good to not just play rugby. It’s my way out and escape. This balance suits me. You always see the same people in training. Even if I really like girls, it’s good to also meet people who don’t talk to me about rugby, to see something else.
It may come as a surprise to see a rugby player named one of the world’s top four last year not be a pro. Isn’t that an anomaly for you?
It will take time to get some things into the morals. Today, women’s sport is progressing more and more. We work for future rugby players, for young people. We already managed to get federal contracts in November 2018, it’s a great development. Today, I could only live from my status as an employee of the French Rugby Federation, but I prefer to see something else.
Since your international debut in 2015, how has top-level women’s rugby evolved?
Already, there is the public. Before, it was complicated to fill the stadiums. Now, everywhere we go, we manage to fill stadiums. When I started, very few media were interested in us. Now there are a lot of them, which is great, and not just sports media. Previously, we were on France 4, now on France 2. That alone is a great development. The next World Cup will be broadcast on TF1.
The progression is crazy, it’s great, I hope it continues, again and again. In terms of results, we have finished third in the World Cup several times, we have already won Grand Slams. I hope that we will be able to win this new title this weekend. This will reward the work of all the women who have worked for women’s rugby.
You were already there during the 2018 Grand Slam. What are the differences with the current group?
There is a little more youth and madness, and conversely perhaps less experience. But the level of play has changed a lot since I started. We play a lot better. We practice more. It’s faster, there are more avoidances. The pillars are much more mobile and can last an entire match…
There may still be one thing to change: the elite championship, with a big gap between the best teams and the others. What do you think ?
I would like to return to a championship of 10 teams, with a single group, as we had three or four years ago [cette saison, 14 formations sont réparties en deux poules]. It was the Top 8, or the Top 10, and you knew that every weekend the matches were hooked. And then today, we never meet certain teams, except in the final phase. Last season, we never faced Stade Toulousain. I do not know what the FFR has undertaken in relation to that.
Do you think that in a few years there will be as many professional girls in rugby as in football, and who will earn their living as well as the players of Lyon?
Maybe we won’t get such fabulous salaries. But I think that in no time, we will be able to create a professional championship. People just need to invest, like Nicollin (in Montpellier) and Aulas (in Lyon) have done in women’s football. We have to have TV rights. Once my career is over, I will continue to work in this direction. It is important for future generations and for our sport.
Have you already set a date to quit?
I would already like to play in the next World Cup. And I hope to play the next one (in 2025), while waiting to find out where it will take place, because there is still a chance that it will be in France. But hey, between what I want and what my body will allow me to do… We’ll see…