France have retained their World University Championship title, with a star-studied team only conceding two tries over the whole tournament, both to runners-up Australia.
After a well-attended tournament in Swansea two years ago the eventual turnout of teams for the eighth biennial World University Championship in Swakopmund, Namibia, was disappointing. Great Britain, New Zealand and China failed to enter at all, and Canada, India and even hosts Namibia all pulled out shortly before the tournament.
The remaining five teams – Brazil, South Africa, Belgium, Australia and France – were all drawn to play in a single pool over the first two days with knockout semi-finals and a final in the third day (14th July).
It was quickly apparent who these four would be as Brazil were quickly shown to be well of the pace of the other teams, failing to score a single try from their four matches.
The other four teams were generally well matched, although France – with a squad that included the national XVs captain Gaelle Hermet plus fellow internationals Romane Menager, Ian Jason, Camille Imart – always looked a level above the rest.
Only Australia – with a core of players from national university champions Griffiths University (Queensland) – seemed a likely threat, with the highlight of the opening day being France’s match against Australia, resulting in a 15-5 for les bleus.
The second day also saw some exciting games, with South Africa’s 17-12 win over Australia being a real highlight. The South Africans showed great potential, but also great inconsistency, following up that win with a 12-12 draw with Belgium.
The semi-final draw saw the South Africans drawn against Australia, but this time it was Australia who got the best of the game, battling through to win 21-12. France walloped Belgium 56-0 in the other semi-final. South Africa then missed out on bronze, losing 17-0 to Belgium.
In the final, the top-level experience of the French dominated the first half, with three tries and Australia all-but incapable of getting out of their half. 17-0 down at halftime there was no way back for the Australian team, but an improved second-half performance kept the final score down to 24-7 to France.
France squad: Brandy Cazorla (Lycée Ozenne Toulouse); Julie Coudert (Paris 13 Villetaneuse University); Maëlle Filopon (CESNI Bourget du Lac); Blandine Gadioux (Bordeaux University); Joanna Gray (Paris-Sud Orsay University); Leila Guermit (University of Lyon); Gaëlle Hermet (IFE PREMFS Toulouse); Camille Imart (University Paul Sabatier Toulouse); Ian Jason (University Paul Sabatier Toulouse); Valentine Lothoz (University Rennes 2); Romane Menager (University Lille 2); Yolaine Yengo (University Rennes 2)
Pool: South Africa beat Brazil; Australia beat Belgium; ; France 43-0 South Africa; Brazil 0-36 Australia; France 15-5 Australia; Brazil 0-29 Belgium; France 40-0 Belgium; South Africa 17-12 Australia; France 46-0 Brazil; Belgium 12-12 South Africa
Semi-finals: France 56-0 Belgium; Australia 12-21 South Africa
Third place: Belgium 17-0 South Africa
Final: France 24-7 Australia