Inside The Power Of The French Pack

null

England dominated France in round two of the Women’s Six Nations, with a strong mismatch observed in the backs. 

But Les Bleus’ forwards scored four second-half tries to earn that valuable bonus point, and relied on their scrum for some consistency. That set piece is traditionally a source of pride for reigning champion, and it’s something with which the USA is familiar.

Watch The Women's Six Nations LIVE on FloRugby (Subscribers in USA, Middle East, North Africa and Portugal)



By Jackie Finlan


USA prop Sarah Chobot knows the French scrum intimately, having lined up against Les Bleus at home, in France and in the Rugby World Cup.

“They’re one of my favorite teams to scrum against because they’re so very good at it. Quite honestly I think they have one of the best scrums in the world,” Chobot said.

“They tend to be a smaller, little bit lighter pack. They’re a little bit shorter so they definitely play much lower, which is interesting,” the loosehead continued. “Some teams use the set piece as a formality but it’s a point of pride for [France] and it creates that go-forward ball ... They’ll have an opportunity for points and they’ll elect to scrum. And that just shows a team that’s very confident in their set piece, which is always fun to play.”

And by “fun,” Chobot means “challenging,” and she found a great rivalry in French tighthead Christelle Chobet, “which is funny because our names are almost identical.”

“You just prepare for her and in a lot of ways,” Chobot recalled. “She did a few things really, really well that I had to calm myself down at time, because if I went on attack in the wrong way, then she’d have me in it, and it’s a done deal.”

Chobot knows Chobet, but when readying for less familiar opponents, she draws chess comparisons to prepare.

“I’ve always put props in three categories, which makes it easy for me to prepare for,” Chobot explained. “You have queens, and if you think about chess, the queen can go everywhere she wants, but she oftentimes holds back in attack. I think of a Jamie Burke as a queen. She’s got a really deep toolbox. She can attack, she can defend and she’s very willing to just park if that’s what’s asked of her.

“Then there are what I call pawns, and I don’t mean that in a negative way. I just mean that they tend to have two or three things that they do, but they do those two or three things exceptionally well. You don’t necessarily have to guess what they’re going to do, but you better be prepared for what they’re going to do.”

Chobot identifies with the third type of prop.

“And then you have what I consider the knight,” she said. “They’re the props that are on attack at all times—even maybe when they’re not supposed to be. And they have a deep toolbox but they’re just always attacking.”

Standings, News, Scores, Highlights of 2019 Women's Six Nations

When Chobot is watching film, she’s looking for indicators—like a prop who’s changing her bind links or playing with elevation—to creativity and skill. But once the game begins, so does the real fun and the need for resourcefulness, as every scrum is building upon the previous battle.

“The front row is the most intimate battle of the field, right? Sure, you have centers opposite of centers, but here at this set piece you get to be clever,” Chobot said. “Do one thing and it’s defended, and so you attack a different way and they defend that. If they haven’t figured out how to defend, then don’t change what you’re doing. It’s like a cat and mouse game.”

Six Nations takes a break this week and France will return to action on Feb. 23 against a winless Scotland. Italy and Ireland also play that Saturday, and England and Wales run out on Sunday, Feb. 24.


Jackie Finlan is the editor of The Rugby Breakdown. 

Townsend Makes Wholesale Changes For France Rematch

France v Scotland On-Demand

Unlock this video, live events, and more with a subscription!

Get Started

Already a subscriber? Log In

Scotland coach Gregor Townsend retained just one player, fullback Stuart Hogg, in the starting XV for Saturday's Test with France as the side bid to rebound from their 32-3 pasting by the French last weekend.

Rugby World Cup Titles Gender-Neutral From 2021

The Women's Rugby World Cup in 2017 will be the last to bear that title with World Rugby announcing on Wednesday they are adopting a policy of gender neutrality for their tournaments.

Seawolves Land RUNY Coach Lensing

The Seattle Seawolves have signed former Rugby United New York forwards coach, Kees Lensing, as head coach for the 2020 Major League Rugby season. 

Summer Test or Final Exam: Riekert Hattingh Has To Step Up

null

The Summer Test Series is a final proving ground for players trying to make the roster for the Rugby World Cup, for a few players it’s the first and only chance to make the squad.

Five Things We Learned About RWC Contenders This Week

null

Just when it seemed like the sky was falling, and the mighty All Blacks were ready to lose their grip on rugby dominance, order was restored. 

Could Ban KO World Cup Hopes For Gabrillagues?

null

French forward Paul Gabrillagues's World Cup hopes were in the balance on Tuesday after he was banned for six weeks for a tackle on Scotland flanker John Barclay last weekend.

Argentina Star Isa Left Off World Cup Squad

France-based loose forward Facundo Isa was a shock omission from the 31-man Argentina Rugby World Cup named Monday by coach Mario Ledesma in Buenos Aires.

Italy Veteran Ghiraldini Returns From Injury For World Cup

null

Unlock this video, live events, and more with a subscription!

Get Started

Already a subscriber? Log In

Leonardo Ghiraldini is set to return from injury with the experienced hooker included on Sunday in Italy's largely youthful squad which features 23 tournament debutants for next month's Rugby World Cup in Japan.

Cal Welcomes 12-Player Freshmen Class

The Drama Of Jesuit's HS Nationals Victory

The University of California men's rugby program has announced the addition of 12 freshmen to its program.

Welsh Star Halfpenny: 'My Legs Are Killing Me' Before Kicking Penalty

null

Leigh Halfpenny admitted his legs were "killing" him as he stepped up to take the penalty that sealed Wales's 13-6 win over England on his return to Test rugby after a prolonged absence due to concussion.