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France's 'monstrous athletes' now have an edge under Shaun Edwards

By PA
Shaun Edwards (Getty Images)

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Wales captain Dan Biggar feels that the Shaun Edwards effect has been “huge” for Guinness Six Nations leaders and title favourites France.

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Les Bleus are closing in on Six Nations glory, holding a three-point advantage over closest rivals Ireland.

Victory over Wales in Cardiff on Friday – and then against England at Stade de France next week – would guarantee silverware and a first Grand Slam for 12 years.

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Edwards was a key member of Warren Gatland’s Wales coaching staff that masterminded four Six Nations titles, three Grand Slams and a World Cup semi-final appearance.

He left after the 2019 World Cup and became part of Fabien Galthie’s French renaissance and his impact has not been lost on the Wales players.

“It is a very different team we are playing now to years gone past,” Biggar said.

“Shaun has made a huge difference going in there and he has added some real discipline and work ethic.

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“They have always been talented – we’ve always come up against monstrous athletes and hugely-talented players – but I think they have got that real edge to them now and they look the real deal.

“For us, it is going to have to be a huge performance to pick up a result on Friday.

“We are quietly confident. We are quite happy for France, for (Antoine) Dupont, (Romain) Ntamack and Shaun to take all the headlines and the stardust and things.

“We are hoping to go quietly under the radar and do our business on Friday night.

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“I am sure, knowing Shaun, he will be very much business as usual until the final whistle and then I will probably look to have a catch-up with him after the game.”

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Fly-half Biggar is among 11 survivors in Wales’ match-day 23 from last season’s 32-30 defeat against France in Paris.

Although Wales were crowned Six Nations champions after France lost to Scotland six days later, their Grand Slam hopes disappeared in dramatic circumstances with Les Bleus claiming an injury-time try.

Biggar added: “We took the game to France and made it clear that we weren’t just going to absorb what they were going to throw at us.

“It is very, very difficult with the world-class players that France have got.

“You are not going to stop them scoring 20-plus points because of the talent and the power they have in their team, so we knew that we were going to have to score 20-plus points to be in with a shout. That was our mindset then, and it’s still the same now.

“Shaun has got them very well drilled in terms of post-tackle work and breakdowns, which have been a huge plus for them.

“We know that we haven’t got to overplay our hand in our own half, but we need to come alive when we get in the French half and take any opportunities we can.”

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