The incredible story of the fisherwoman turned butcher starring in French rugby league

Sebastian Sternik
Justine Roses

Love Rugby League chats exclusively to Justine Roses – a fisherwoman, a student and arguably one of the brightest talents in the French women’s national side.

Some people are introduced to rugby league by chance. Others discover the sport through friends. Roses, on the other hand, was simply born into the beautiful game.

“All my family play rugby league,” said the 20-year-old who has been tipped as the future of the French team.

“My father played, my brother, my grandfather was the president. Cousin was in the French team.

“Since I’ve been born, I’ve always been next to the pitch. My mother was also working for a club, she was the president of a community club. All family. That’s why it was easy for me to play rugby league.”

Considering her extensive family background in the sport, it didn’t come as much of a surprise when Roses was finally called-up to the French national team for last week’s training camp in Nantes.

Les Bleus are currently in a rebuilding phase after enduring a disappointing World Cup campaign in 2022 – suffering three straight defeats and scoring just 18 points throughout.

With a new coach in place, the national side are placing their chips on the next generation and pinning their hopes on talents such as Roses.

“I started rugby league when I was 14 years old,” she said. “I always dreamed of wearing the blue jersey and playing for my country.

“Now I’m in the French squad. I think I work hard, but I need to continue to do that to keep my place in the team.”

Roses admitted she now dreams of representing her country at the 2026 World Cup – a tournament which was moved from France to the southern hemisphere.

While losing the tournament was undoubtedly a big blow for the development of the sport in the country, Roses believes the female side of the game continues to flourish.

When asked about the state of rugby league in France, Roses said: “Hard question. I don’t really know.

“The women’s game is improving every year and I hope rugby league will continue to improve here because it’s the best sport in the world.”

Fishing, hard work and dedication

Becoming a rugby league international takes talent, commitment and pure hard work. Thankfully for Roses, the words ‘hard work’ were instilled into her from an early age.

The Deesses Catalanes player comes from a fishing family which have been sailing the Mediterranean for centuries.

“I like fishing,” said Roses who admitted her biggest ever catch was a 50kg tuna.

“Our family are seven generation fishermen – my brother will be the seventh. I can’t do anything other than help fishing.

“My father goes out fishing, my mother sells the fish, my grandmother also works. It’s more of a passion than business. It’s a very hard job.”

As well as tacking the high seas, Roses also spent the summer working for a butcher. On top of that, the player is studying and travels 90 minutes one-way to make training sessions. Gym sessions and late-night runs are on the schedule as well.

Squeezing everything in takes a lot of discipline – something that was instilled into her from a young age.

“It comes from my upbringing,” she said. “Fishing is hard work, at 10 years old I was already helping family, selling the fish, helping my grandmother. My parents taught me that you must work if you want something.”

Eyeing successive domestic crown

Roses currently plays club rugby for the defending French champions Deesses Catalanes.

Defending the title in 2023/24 remains one of her top priorities, saying: “I hope we’ll work for it.

“We’ve changed the squad, we’ve changed the way we play. It’s a new direction for Deesses Catalanes. But I believe in my team and we’ll do everything to win again.”

The women’s division in France seemed somewhat stale last year with just four teams competing in the top tier – talk about loop fixtures!

The big wigs have since decided to merge the top two divisions and create a far more enticing 10-team competition.

“It was a little boring,” said Roses about last season. “We’re excited because we’ll play more.

“It will be easier to play every two weeks, feel better physically, more consistency.”

Deesses Catalanes have already tested themselves on the international scene, playing two games against Castleford Tigers and competing in the 2022 Nines tournament.

When asked whether she would like to take on a team from the Women’s Super League in England, Roses said: “Yes, I would like to play against English clubs, to test ourselves against better opposition. To play against better clubs to see where we are and where we can improve.”

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