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The modern-day opinion that 'quite mystifies' Shaun Edwards

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

France assistant coach Shaun Edwards has revealed that a particular modern-day opinion he hears from older players leaves him mystified. The defence coaching specialist has arrived into 2023 on the back of an unbeaten 2022 calendar year with Les Bleus in which they followed up their first Six Nations Grand Slam title win since 2010 with a successful July tour to Japan and an unbeaten three-game Autumn Nations Series.

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Ahead of the opening France match of the new year, the February 5 Six Nations game away to Italy in Rome, Edwards has given a game-by-game review of his team’s ten-match 2022 campaign to the World Rugby website.

In it, he praised the decisive prominence that France had in the ruck in last February’s Six Nations success over Ireland and outlined how Fabien Galthie’s squad lapped up the attention rather than shied away from the spotlight during the build-up to the following month’s finale against England.

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However, with France preparing to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup in September, the most eye-catching aspect of Edwards’ 2022 review came with his thoughts on his team’s recent wins over Australia and South Africa.

France enjoyed a thrilling 30-29 victory over the Wallabies in Paris and they followed that seven days later by getting the better of the world champion Springboks in a 30-26 belter in Marseille. Edwards was both relieved and elated by these November wins.

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“We had a few injuries going into the series and I was very worried about the Australia game because I know Australia are a real threat,” he began. “When they turn up with the right attitude and have got anything like their best team, they are a top-ranked team. I thought our defence was okay even though we conceded many points.

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“They scored one try (by Lalakai Foketi) from a turnover which was incredible – you almost had to stand up and start clapping it because it was such a marvellous try. But we created a lot of turnovers at the ruck, I think it was nine or ten, and that definitely benefitted our attack.

“It was probably a good example of where international rugby is at the moment – a lot of points and a lot of close scorelines. Let’s be honest, it is pretty exciting. I’m quite mystified sometimes by the older players who say the game is not as good as it used to be.”

Switching to the French win over the Springboks, Edwards added: “The World Rugby Rankings are brilliant for fans to see how their team is doing and I know Ireland are top. But, for me, South Africa are the best team in the world because they are the reigning world champions and for a lot of the Autumn Nations Series, they played like world champions.

“They were everything that people talk about. They were powerful and physical and probably the best in the world at mauls and scrums, but they are so much more than that. They have got so much speed on the edges and score a lot of tries from inside their own half, so to beat them was marvellous.”

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