13 Apr 2024


France are just one win away from securing a berth at the 2026 Women’s World Cup in the Southern Hemisphere after beating Greece 58-0 in the opening game in the opening match of European Group B qualifying tournament, held in scorching Marmande.

If France win in Belgrade in June they will complete the job, while Greece must now look to qualify for the 2025 World Series after a highly encouraging display against the favourites, in only their fourth women’s fixture.

France women’s head coach, Romain Maillot, commented: “It is a good victory for us and important to start the tournament this way.

"We respected Greece and congratulate them for their performance. The second step will be to prepare the same way to face the challenge of Serbia and we will look to take these high standards into all our games.”

France were without Australian-based forward Perrine Monsarrat, who was a member of the 2023 Sydney Roosters NRLW squad, and former Brisbane Tigers centre Laureane Biville, who played for the Warriors at the 2019 NRL 9s in Perth.

Maillot said other players had stepped up in the match, which was played in 30 degrees heat and in front of a vocal crowd of 1112. 

“It was the first game for Amael Vilanove and she scored three tries which is exceptional and Stecy Bessiere is a very clever player whose choices were excellent," he said.


Cristina Song-Puche in action for France against Greece

Vilanove’s feat was bettered by Saint-Estève XIII Catalan’s Margot Canal, the winger crossing four times.

The hosts opened impressively, scoring three times in the opening 15 minutes through Cristina Song-Puche in the left corner, Canal’s first and Ines Legout who danced through tacklers, Mahault Pommier with one conversion.

Canal was in again just after the 20 minute mark completing a right to left move, AS Ayguesvives XIII’s Vilanove shrugging off the defence from 30 metres out to score on the right edge.

Greece forced a goal line drop out from their first real spell of pressure, but Canal completed her hat trick before half time with a 60m break downfield, evading Magdalini Stavrianou.

In the second half, Greece showed a renewed determination with some big first up and scrambling defence, but Fanny Ramos kept the scoreboard ticking over as she burrowed over from dummy-half.

Chahrazad Himoudi powered to the line and Canal showed her pace again, taking Song-Puche’s offload to race in from halfway.

Vilanove finished from 40 metres out, Pommier on target with her fourth successful conversion, and Himoudi gained her second just getting inside the corner flag despite a period of sustained Greek pressure.

The final word went to Vilanove who completed a spectacular debut as she again went in from distance.

Jim Minadakis, the Greece Women’s head coach, had nothing but praise for his side’s efforts.

“I’m extremely happy with the work that the girls put in, they left nothing out there and it’s an extremely good learning experience for us at this level,” he said.

“I could name so many of our players for praise but Cleopatra Velmachou stood out in an unfamiliar position for her at stand off.

"We’ve five weeks to prepare for our next game and we know we have to lift our game further because it is do-or-die for us, and we’ll give everything we have.

"The most important aspect for us has been having a domestic competition over the winter, it has definitely put up the level, we are going in the right direction.”

Greece now meet Serbia in Athens on Saturday 18 May to keep their hopes of World Cup qualification alive.

The winners of European Group B and Group A, featuring Wales, Ireland, Italy and Netherlands, and Group B, will join Australia, England, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea at the World Cup.

The runners up in both groups will meet in a play-off for a place at the World Series against the winners of the Americas and MEA Championships and the second-placed Pacific team to determine the eighth and final World Cup berth.  


Tries: Cristina Song-Puche (4), Margot Canal (7, 23, 36, 51), Ines Legout (15), Amael Vilanove (26, 59, 77), Fanny Ramos (47), Chahrazad Himoudi (51, 74); Goals: Mahault Pommier 4/12

Manon Samarra, Margot Canal, Cristina Song-Puche, Amael Vilanove, Chahrazad Himoudi, Justine Roses, Mahault Pommier, Salome Segala, Fanny Ramos, Leila Bessahli, Ines Legout, Stecy Bessiere, Dorine Samarra. Interchange: Helene Leclerc, Pauline Noe, Nabila Zaghdoudi, Tallis Kuresa.


Magdalini Stavrianou, Velissaria Koutsioumpa, Dimitra Papoutsi, Christina Macris, Sofia Anagnostopoulou, Cleopatra Velmachou, Asimina Mastoraki, Marianna Chali, Chrysi Lymperidi, Anna Limperi, Maria-Eleni Gkirlemi, Myrsini Pappa, Ourania Koutsikou. Interchange: Georgia-Fotini Koutsimpogeorgou, Ekaterini Varypati. Maria-Anna Lamprou, Sofia-Margarita Kitsaneli.

Referee: James Spencer (Ireland)

Half Time: 28-0