For Jessy Trémoulière, it all started with a simple phone call. When contacted by the organising committee for Rugby World Cup 2023, she had no idea that she was going to be offered a seat on the Rugby World Cup France 2023 Players' Committee chaired by the Australian rugby legend, John Eales.
“They wanted to put a woman who had a fairly substantial track record and they turned to me; I gave my consent straight away," Trémoulière told World Rugby. "I'm very happy that they picked up my name because there are other girls in the France team who have a great track record."
Named World Rugby Women’s Player of the Year in 2018 and then World Rugby Women’s 15s Player of the Decade a year later at the World Rugby Awards, the 64-cap full-back seemed to be the perfect person to sit alongside the great personalities of rugby who make up this committee.
John Eales, Rugby World Cup winner in 1991 and 1999, inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame in 2007 and former Wallabies captain (86 caps) is joined by the former French internationals Philippe Sella (111 caps) and Yannick Jauzion (73 caps), Wales rugby legend Gareth Thomas (100 caps) and former Australia captain David Pocock (83 caps).
"All the members of this committee are great names, they are emblematic, they have been a part of some great events," said Trémoulière. “I’m very happy to be part of this adventure and this Rugby World Cup, it’s going to be a huge event.
“They are great gentlemen of rugby. It will be amazing to meet them. I must not be overcome by emotion when in their presence but think about the role I am going to have, bring all my know-how. I cannot be a spectator taking pictures with them.”
Trémoulière will not be the only woman to sit on the committee as Iesinga Vunipola, mother of England rugby stars Mako and Billy, will be alongside her.
At 28 years old, Trémoulière admits she is impressed to be there. “Unfortunately, I didn't really know John Eales as a player because I got into rugby a bit late,” said the full-back. "It makes you want to live alongside his experience. I think he can bring a lot to the committee; I can't wait to find out."
The boom in women's rugby
Trémoulière has only participated in one Rugby World Cup, in 2014 in France. Injured in 2017, she had given way to Montserrat Amédée in Ireland. Her trajectory has since followed the upward curve of women's rugby in France and around the world, regularly breaking records in terms of both stadium attendance and television audience.
On 10 March, 2018, a Le Crunch at the Stade des Alpes in Grenoble brought together 17,740 fans, a record for a women's rugby match. Six months later, Les Bleues beat the Black Ferns in front of 17,102 spectators, another new record. The Women’s Six Nations 2021 final between England and France saw an average of 1.2 million spectators on national TV channel France 2, peaking at 1.7 million.
"It's encouraging; people love the rugby that we produce. And even though they can't come to the stadium right now, they still follow us on TV. I have a lot of feedback from the games we did where people had fun watching us and that’s good for the future,” smiled Trémoulière.
The strength of this group and this abnegation have meant that Les Bleues have always defined themselves as "humble and hungry". And Trémoulière is the perfect representation of this mantra.
"Just because I've had some pretty important titles in my career doesn't mean I'm the strongest, I'm the best," she revealed. “That's kind of the education I’ve got. I have never thought that I have succeeded because I have my family behind me who keep my feet on the ground, even the staff of the France team; sometimes they remind me of it. Besides, even though I had these titles, I am a replacement in the 2021 Women’s Six Nations! You always must prove yourself, keep working and not take everything for granted. This is my mentality. Telling yourself that you have arrived at the top or being haughty doesn't get you anything and life can catch up with you. I have stayed myself, that's my personality."
Create a link between players and fans
Within the Rugby World Cup France 2023 Players' Committee, Trémoulière intends to bring her experience and vision. At the rate of a few videoconferences per year – while waiting to meet her fellow committee members face-to-face when the health situation permits – she intends to get involved and contribute her ideas.
"The role of the Players' Committee will be to create a link between fans and players, to experience this World Cup for everyone, to see what we can put in place so that it does not weigh too much on the concentration of players. We need to see what can be done between what the players tell us and what the fans tell us, then meet their expectations,” she said.
“The fans will come from all over the world, and they too will live their own adventure. Why not offer them to go to training sessions, organise meetings with players, have them discuss together ... that the fans soak up the pre-match. For example, that the players go through walkabouts before entering the stadium. There are things to put in place, it will be necessary to think about all that.
“I think everyone will have a say. We will have to see what can be done. I think it's important to bring our experience, to bring our female eye. Without going forward, I think the committee will pay close attention to the words of the two women who will be represented. We have our feminine grace to bring and our experience because I hope to also be part of the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand in 2022 and bring back experience from there to adapt it in 2023.
“It will be a huge Rugby World Cup. And as the principle is that each World Cup retains good things from the previous one, let's hope that it gives ideas to the next so that women are even more represented."