Gaëlle Mignot wants to use the considerable experience she gained as a player and the passion she has for coaching to help the current France squad achieve its goals at Rugby World Cup 2021.
Mignot, who had been working with Les Bleues through the RWC 2021 Coaching Internship Programme, was last month confirmed as the team’s assistant coach in charge of the scrum and contact area.
It is a rich reward for the work she has put into a coaching journey that began well before she hung up her playing boots last year.
"I don't know if it was easy,” she told World Rugby of her transition to the coaching staff, “but I am delighted to be able to help and continue to be part of the French team.
Congratulations to former Richmond player Gaëlle Mignot on being appointed an assistant coach for France Women 🇫🇷— Richmond Rugby (@RichmondFC1861) May 19, 2022
She'll be in charge of scrummaging and the contact area. Good luck Gaëlle!#ThisIsRichmond 💛❤️🖤 pic.twitter.com/5VQm5KM8px
“To take part in an event like the Rugby World Cup; these are wonderful things. I know the environment, what will happen, the pressure that the players will feel.
“I think I'll also have that eye. I'll also be able to bring my experience as a player to the younger players who will be participating in a World Cup for the first time. I am well integrated into the federation.
"I think that the federation wants to have this image of people who have worn the French team jersey and who today coach. This is the case for Fabien Galthié and William Servat.
“All the people who work on a daily basis as players or coaches, at some point climb the ladder and I am delighted that the federation has confidence in me.”
“I really want to give 2,000 per cent”
France recorded back-to-back record victories against the Black Ferns last November, before finishing second to England in the Women’s Six Nations 2022.
Looking ahead to RWC 2021, Mignot admitted that her “greatest dream would be to be world champion”.
“I've just joined the staff and I really want to give 2,000 per cent so that the girls are world champions,” she said. “The French team has never won this title.
“I have been to three World Cups and three times we failed. I was lucky enough to win titles as a player in the [Women’s Six Nations] Championship, Grand Slams... It's true that this is one of my biggest goals.”
Having made her final international appearance as a replacement against Scotland in the Women’s Six Nations 2018, Mignot has known many of the current squad as a team-mate before she became their coach.
"It's always odd, but the dialogue flows very well, the framework is given,” she admitted. “We make a distinction between what happens on the pitch and what we are in life.
“That's my job today. They want to progress; they want to move forward. The roles are allocated. They are players, I am a coach.
“That doesn't mean I don't have friends in the team and that I'll always have them after this phase.”
Ultimately, Mignot is driven by a desire to get the most out of the players, and the team that she works with.
"I think I'm a passionate coach, who always wants to do her best to bring everything she can to her players,” she explained.
“I question myself quite often, I try to find new things, to surprise them, to listen to them. But I think my greatest quality is to be passionate and to always want to give my best.”
Another woman whose involvement with the RWC 2021 Coaching Internship Programme has led to a formalised role is Whitney Hansen.
Hansen was confirmed as Black Ferns assistant coach in April, working with Wayne Smith, Wesley Clarke, Allan Bunting, Graham Henry and Mike Cron as the defending champions finalise their preparations for their home Rugby World Cup.
The new era got underway on Monday with a come-from-behind 23-10 defeat of Australia on the opening day of the World Rugby Pacific Four Series 2022 in Tauranga.
Speaking to ScrumQueens ahead of the Pacific Four Series, Hansen said the RWC 2021 Coaching Internship Programme had been hugely important to her development.
“At the moment things aren’t equal and we don’t have many women in this space so to have opportunities to get in there and be seen has been awesome,” she said.
“We need to continue to have more of those opportunities to help even things up.
“The network of coaches you get to know has also been awesome. Before the programme I had no idea who many of these people were as we hadn’t connected yet so the ability to learn off each other has been really powerful.”