France women will face Serbia women for the first time tomorrow (Saturday) at the Parc des Sports d'Avignon (kick off 1900hrs local time).
New France head coach Romain Maillot has trimmed his squad from a group of over 30 players who have been training since the start of the year for their first games since the Rugby League World Cup, with the Serbia match followed by a trip to England next month.
He hands debuts to Justine Roses, Perle Ramazeilles, Alice Rieunaud, Salomé Ségala, Mahault Pommier and Amael Vilanove alongside experienced campaigners such as Elisa Akpa who will captain the side and vice captain Lauréanne Biville who has had experience playing in Australia and in England with Wigan Warriors.
Maillot said: “I want to thank and highlight the involvement of all the players who participated in the recent training camps. Although the squad is cut down, it really is the whole France group which has worked hard. The squad now needs to put in place what we have seen during training and make things happen automatically. We’re taking this first post World Cup game very seriously and we cannot wait to be in front of our home crowd.”
Serbia will be using the game to progress their ambitions of qualifying for Rugby League World Cup 2025 in France, with their campaign due to kick off later this year against Ireland. The Serbian women’s team finished last year’s Euro B Women’s competition as runners up to Greece, but the close performance against them and a victory over Turkey pushed them up the world rankings to 12th spot, and the game will give them an ideal opportunity to test themselves against one of Europe’s leading teams.
Team manager Dragan Pavlović noted: “We are honoured to be playing against the French. Exactly 70 years ago, they brought rugby league to Serbia so this is a good way to celebrate and co-incidentally the first tour after the re-establishment of SRL Federation, 20 years ago in February 2003, was to the South of France. Women’s rugby league is in its infancy in Serbia but with each day we are working on its development and have accomplished a lot so far. France is one of the top European teams which makes them a perfect opponent to kickstart our campaign. Although in this match the result is not a priority, we are still determined to put up a good fight and our best foot forward.”
FRANCE WOMEN’S SQUAD:
Elisa Akpa, Leila Bessahli, Mélanie Bianchini, Margot Canal, Sarah Menaa, Fanny Ramos, Justine Roses, (Saint-Estève XIII Catalan), Lauréanne Biville, Cloé Guillerot, Perle Ramazeilles, Alice Rieunaud, Dorine Samarra, Manon Samarra, Salomé Ségala, Louisa Tooman (Rc Lescure Arthès XIII), Laurianne Canet (XIII Limouxin), Inés Legout, Lise Michel, Mahault Pommier(As Ayguesvives XIII)
SERBIA WOMEN’S SQUAD:
Natasa Vignjevic (Dorcol), Anastasija Karanovic (Partisan 1953) Ljiljana Bajic, Nika Bajic, Karolina Blizanac, Tamara Bosnjak, Uma Cengaj, Anastasija Djordjevic, Jovana Fridl, Natasa Kovacevic, Teodora Marin, Marija Maslakovic, Teodora Micic, Natalija Simic, Marija Simovic, Sanja Starcevic, Jelena Stojiljkovic, Katarina Veljanovsku (Red Star)