Shaun Edwards has revealed his approach to tackling the language barrier now that he is defence coach at Fabien Galthie’s France.
The Englishman learned his trade on the books at Wasps and Wales over a considerable period of time, but he is now very much out of his comfort zone having started working with the French the weekend after he returned from the recent World Cup in Japan.
In his first major interview about his new role in a country he claims he always wanted coach in, Edwards told Midi Olympique, the bi-weekly French rugby newspaper, how he is settling in ahead of the 2020 Six Nations which kicks off for Les Bleus with a February 2 home match versus France in Paris.
In tackling the language barrier, he explained he had taken advice from Serge Betsen and is leaning on the influence of new France team boss Raphael Ibanez, both of whom he coached at Wasps.
“Wherever I worked, I adopted an attitude that allowed me to adapt to them. I have no fear,” he insisted to Midi. “Players only want one thing: to win. So they want coaches who want the same thing and who help them get there. And then I’ve already trained French players in the past, like Raphael Ibanez or Serge Betsen.
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“I recently met Serge to talk to him about it. He explained to me the differences in training in France, the relationships with coaches, etc. He gave me lots of good advice that I will keep very precious. It’s someone that I respect a lot.
“Raphael is one of the reasons that made me work with France today. It also reminds me of a discussion I had with him the other day: obviously, I am not yet bilingual in French because I cannot have a long conversation.
“However, I can train in French because when you train, you have to be concise. When he arrived at the Wasps in 2005, Rapha remembered: in the field, I said only two or three words, four maximum. It helped him a lot.
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“So I hope these short sentences will also help the French team. To come back to your question, the presence of Raphael played a big role in my decision. Because he is a professional and he can create a competitive environment for players and coaches so that everyone can progress.
“I always wanted to train in France. I have always loved your rugby and watched the Top 14 carefully. My son studied in France too, and he speaks your language fluently. In short, I always suspected that I would eventually train in France one day or another.
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He didn’t hang around getting stuck in after Wales’ World Cup finished with a bronze medal defeat to New Zealand. “I came back from the World Cup on Monday and the following Saturday I was in France to start working with the French staff in the village where Fabien was born.
“We started our meetings, and also met the media, which was a very important moment. We also visited the clubs but above all, we had the opportunity to train together.
“We did it with Massy’s team, and we worked the same way as we will with France’s XV. It was very beneficial for me, I was able to train in French. I want to do it with the XV of France. We will repeat the experience in two weeks with the under-20s in Italy.”
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