France’s charismatic captain Terry Bouhraoua tells RW’s Alan Dymock why his side won’t parachute in stars of the 15s game

PLENTY OF headlines have been made by the big 15s players coming into sevens. We know of the All Blacks and Wallabies who have come in for this season, hoping to be in the mix when the medals are handed out at the Olympics. But for France captain Terry Bouhraoua, there are only so many 15s boys needed.

“It’s difficult to have more than three of these guys in your squad,” Bouhraoua says. “The new players have an obligation to play in the sevens series so they’re ready for the Olympics at the end of the season. But I think three of them would be the maximum.

“For France it’s a little different. We don’t have a Sonny Bill Williams or Quade Cooper to come straight into the sevens squad. We don’t have this problem because there aren’t superstars like them in France. And – this is just me talking – I don’t think this is the best solution for our team.”

Of course, things can work the other way around. In the past, New Zealand have used sevens to get elite rugby experience for players who would go on to become All Blacks – think Liam Messam or Julian Savea. Scotland have done it too. Now France Sevens have seen their team-mate Virimi Vakatawa score a try on his Test debut against Italy.

Big hand: Sonny Bill Williams carries ball

Big hand: Sonny Bill Williams carries ball

Bouhraoua says: “I’m very happy for Virimi – it’s good for him, for us and for the 15s. It’s good for everybody. I hope this shows how sevens youngsters can go into 15s.”

Bouhraoua insists that the French side is more like a club side now – they are more professional, more streamlined than in earlier years.

So when there are injuries or drop-outs and players from outside their full-time sevens environment come in, they must catch up. There were only 14 French professional sevens players at the start of the season, and outsiders with Olympic dreams have had to be chucked into series rugby. It hasn’t been easy but Bouhraoua feels now is the time to experiment, before it’s too late.

He’s had his own little injuries to overcome too, noticeably during the Wellington Sevens when he damaged his foot. He was cleared but sevens is not a game to hop through, and the fleet-footed skipper is key for France.

“I’ve matured over the years,” he says. “Now, as captain, I must prepare the team because anticipation (of problems) is a big part of team success.

“I have also changed a lot as a player since my first tournament (in 2010). When you start you just
go straight and hard. I’ve learnt to think better during games.”

This was first published in the April issue of Rugby World. For the latest subscription offers, click here.