For fitness coach Céline Allainmat, 2021 is already shaping up to be a good year.
Allainmat was recently named as one of six coaches earmarked for World Rugby’s unique Rugby World Cup 2021 Coaching Internship Programme, with a trip to New Zealand on the horizon.
The programme will see the participants fully embedded with their respective national team management structures for 12 months in the lead up to Rugby World Cup 2021 and Allainmat says the experience will be massively beneficial to her career.
“From an experience point of view, it’s amazing!” she said.
“I think it will boost my career path in coaching. It’s an opportunity to observe from the inside a Rugby World Cup.
“I’ve already played in two, but it was from a player perspective.
“I’ve also seen how it worked with the U20s and it will be great to see the workstreams and modules that they implement with the senior team, as I know they (Fédération Française de Rugby) want to implement some kind of continuity.
“I will try to get as much knowledge as I can during the internship and make progress as a coach.”
Katie Sadleir, World Rugby Women's General Manager, speaks about the innovative Rugby World Cup 2021 Coaching Internship Programme. pic.twitter.com/yTciA9OmJg— World Rugby (@WorldRugby) September 3, 2020
A full-back/winger with a keen eye for the try-line, Allainmat won the first of her 40 caps for Les Bleues against Wales in February 2003.
She played at Rugby World Cup 2006 – where she earned a bronze medal – and 2010, as well as the inaugural tournament in 2009 for sevens, her preferred format of the game.
Unfortunately, an injury in March 2015 proved to be career-ending, preventing her from making France’s team for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
But Allainmet’s interest in the fitness side of the game goes back to her time as a player at Pachys d’Herm.
“Even as a player, it (coaching) drove me before I ended my career. I like sharing my knowledge,” she explained.
“Coaching helps you to question your own game and improve on some aspects so it’s fascinating even when you are still competing. It gives you a chance to take a step back and look at the game.”
Since hanging up her boots, the 38-year-old has worked with the FFR, predominantly at under-20 level, and is currently backs and fitness coach at Stade Rennais, where her playing days came to an end.
Allainmat has found the transition from playing to coaching a fascinating, but demanding experience.
“When you have lived so many things on the other side of the fence, it is very interesting to become a coach and have a different point of view.
“When I was with the U20s, I was even more exhausted than when I was playing! Coaching is both physically and mentally demanding,” she said.
“At Rennes, I have coached the (women’s) B team, coached four seasons with the U18s, and for the last four years, I’ve been working as physical trainer for the senior team.
“I even took charge of the backs during last season. I am now coaching them at the same time! I really love it.”
Inspired by her rugby-playing father, Allainmat first became actively involved in the sport, aged 14, at the local Sporting Club Saint Pierre du Mont.
While she was proud to be a pioneer as the only girl on the team back then, Allainmat is delighted to witness the growth of women’s rugby in subsequent years.
“I think public opinion has evolved. It used to be ‘oh, you’re playing rugby!’
“Now young people have young women they can look up to and be inspired by, and that’s great.
“From an infrastructure perspective, it’s quite obvious as well that we have more resources, budget and support to develop women’s rugby.”