WOMEN’S 2026 WORLD CUP EUROPEAN QUALIFIER

France women have one foot in the 2026 Women’s World Cup in the southern hemisphere after beating Greece 58-0 in the opening game in group B, held in scorching Marmande. If they win in Belgrade in June they will complete the job, while Greece will look to qualify for the repechage 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.”

 

He added: “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.”

 

In over 30 degrees and in front of a vocal home crowd of 1,112, 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.

 

 

FRANCE 58

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

Interchanges: Helene Leclerc, Pauline Noe, Nabila Zaghdoudi, Tallis Kuresa.

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

GREECE 0

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

Interchanges: Georgia-Fotini Koutsimpogeorgou, Ekaterini Varypati. Maria-Anna Lamprou, Sofia-Margarita Kitsaneli

 

Referee: James Spencer (Ireland)

Half Time: 28-0