French flair must still exist in more structured approach, says Edwards
Defence coach Shaun Edwards is trying to control the excitement around a young France team which is now just two wins away from a Grand Slam by warning of the real and present dangers posed by Scotland at Murrayfield.
France made it three wins in a row with a pulsating 27-23 victory against reigning champions Wales and with Scotland and Ireland left to play, a first Slam for ten years is on the cards for Les Bleus.
However, last season, Edwards was part of the Slam winning Wales management that had to endure a difficult match at Murrayfield before the Welsh were able to triumph 18-11 and that experience is fresh in his memory.
Edwards, who spent more than a decade masterminding the Wales defence has already had an impact on the French and said: “I told a couple of our coaches after the game that the Scotland match last year was the toughest for Wales in the whole Six Nations and we have to prepare for that and then a six day turnaround for Ireland which is very difficult. I have been impressed with Scotland in the Six Nations so far. They have to be our absolute priority for us.
“If you look at the (defensive) stats it’s probably not great but we have defended for long periods in every single game but the attitude has been first class and they are buying into how I want them to defend. French teams in the past probably over played in their own half and it is about mixing that flair with some structured rugby and we are slowly getting there.
“We got off the line more consistently against Wales and hopefully the best is yet to come. The public in France have been crying out for a good French team that they can be proud of and hopefully in the next couple of years we can provide that.”
Edwards revealed he had opted to accentuate what was right with the French defence following the improved showing at the Rugby World Cup rather than the inconsistency and lack of discipline that had so often undermined their cause.
“I showed them the fantastic defence at the World Cup and I said this is how good you can be instead of how bad you can be. Thankfully they have continued in that way.”
“It was a fantastic advert for the game and the Six Nations, well refereed and quite an epic encounter. Wales attack is very potent and all the credit goes to the (French) players because they had to dig deep playing the champions who have lost just two games in two years taking away the third and fourth play-off.”
This is a learning experience for Edwards and he paid tribute to the work current head coach Fabien Galthie had done with the players although his famously demanding attitude is clearly having an effect.
He added: “You would have to ask them (the players) if they are enjoying the defence work. A lot of improvement was done by Fabien at the World Cup and I would like to think I have added a little bit more detail at the break down etc. This is the first time I have coached a French team so I don’t know what they were like before but I am very happy with the response I have got. Long may it continue.
“Three from three with another huge game to come and the guys deserve a glass of wine.”
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